Iraqi official: resolving the PKK issue is key to the success of the Development Road

Iraqi official: resolving the PKK issue is key to the success of the Development Road
Shafaq News/ Iraq and Turkiye need to work together to build a stable regional environment to ensure the success of the Development Road project, Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Hisham al-Alawi said.

The project aims to establish a major trade corridor linking China with Europe and the Mediterranean, with Iraq positioned as a key hub. However, al-Alawi acknowledged that ongoing conflicts and non-state armed groups pose a significant challenge.

"We cannot achieve economic integration if we do not have a stable region," al-Alawi told Daily Sabah in an interview. He pointed to a recent security cooperation agreement between Ankara and Baghdad as a positive step.

He emphasized the need to address the issue of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) , a Kurdish militant group with a presence in both countries. "It is important not just for the two countries' national security, but also for projects such as the Development Road," al-Alawi said.

The PKK, which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union.

Last month, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan held talks with officials in Baghdad and Erbil, capital of Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region, about the continued presence of PKK fighters in northern Iraq. Baghdad labelled the group a "banned organisation" in March.

While expressing confidence in Iraq's security improvements, al-Alawi stressed the importance of regional cooperation to create a conducive environment. "Among the countries in the region, Iraq and Turkiye have the biggest interest in working together to end conflicts," he said.

Al-Alawi said that Iraq seeks to move away from reliance on oil and develop partnerships in sectors like agriculture, tourism, and finance.

The Iraqi government depends on the sector for more than 90 percent of its income.

"We need to shift focus on building partnerships between Iraqi and Turkish companies to help us develop those sectors rather than just import," al-Alawi said.

He acknowledged Iraq's aim to reduce overall imports, including from Turkiye, but emphasized the benefits of investment that would create jobs in Iraq.

While recognizing competition for the best transit corridor in the region, al-Alawi expressed confidence in the Development Road's potential to benefit not just Iraq and Turkiye, but also other countries. He highlighted ongoing discussions with various regional players, including Iran and China.

Al-Alawi called for a joint strategy to address the PKK issue, contrasting it with a successful model used to disarm Kurdish armed groups operating in northern Iraq with Iranian cooperation. He emphasized the need for mutual understanding and a collaborative approach between Baghdad and Ankara.

In March 2023, Baghdad and Tehran signed an agreement covering their common border. Per the deal, Iraq disarmed the groups, removed them from their bases, and transferred them to camps.

In 2022, Tehran launched several deadly missile and drone strikes on Iraq's Kurdistan region. The strikes came just after protests began in Iran over the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurd arrested for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic's strict dress code.

Turkiye is increasingly warning of a large-scale military operation in northern Iraq to wipe out hideouts of the PKK while, in the meantime, seeking support from Iraq and Iran to achieve the goal.

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