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Kurdish separatists and water issues loom large in long-awaited visit of Turkey's Erdogan to Iraq

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Kurdish separatists and water issues loom large in long-awaited visit of Turkey's Erdogan to Iraq
News

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Kurdish separatists and water issues loom large in long-awaited visit of Turkey's Erdogan to Iraq

2024-04-22 23:56 Last Updated At:04-23 00:01

BAGHDAD (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdog an arrived in Iraq on Monday for his first official visit in more than a decade as Ankara seeks greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against a Kurdish militant group that has a foothold in Iraq.

Other issues also loom large between the two countries, including water supply and exports of oil and gas from northern Iraq to Turkey, halted for more than a year.

Erdogan, whose last visit to Baghdad was in 2011, when he was prime minister, met with Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as they inked agreements on water management, security, energy and economic cooperation.

“I believe that my visit and the agreements just signed will constitute a new turning point in Turkey-Iraq relations,” Erdogan said in a joint news conference with al-Sudani.

Al-Sudani said they discussed “bilateral security coordination, which will meet the needs of both parties and confront the challenges posed by the presence of armed elements that may cooperate with terrorism and violate the security of the two countries.”

Erdogan's visit “comes at a sensitive and dangerous time," al-Sudani added, citing Israel's war against the Hamas militant group in Gaza — a war that has had ripple effects across the region.

Erdogan said the leaders had “consulted on the joint steps we can take against the PKK terrorist organization and its extensions, which target Turkey from Iraqi territory," referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist movement banned in Turkey.

The PKK has maintained bases in northern Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Erdogan had previously announced a major operation against the PKK during the summer, with the aim of “permanently” eradicating the threat it poses. He did not specify what actions Turkish forces would take in Iraq but Turkish forces have in the past carried out numerous ground offensives against PKK in northern Iraq and Turkish jets frequently target suspected PKK sites.

Ankara now aims to create a 30-40 kilometer (19-25 mile) deep security corridor along the joint border with Iraq, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler told journalists last month.

The insurgency — the PKK is fighting for an autonomous Kurdish state in southeast Turkey — has claimed tens of thousands of lives since the 1980s and Turkey and its Western allies have labelled PKK a terrorist organization.

Baghdad has long complained that Turkish actions in Iraq against the PKK violate its sovereignty, but appears to be acquiescing with Ankara’s operations.

In March, after a meeting between the Iraqi and Turkish foreign ministers, Baghdad announced that the Iraqi National Security Council had issued a ban on the PKK, although it stopped short of designating it as a terrorist organization. Erdogan on Monday praised the ban.

Al-Sudani told journalists during a visit to Washington last week that Iraq and Turkey have “true interests with one another and common projects.” He noted that the PKK has long had a presence in northern Iraq, “but we are not allowing any armed group to be on Iraqi territory and using it as a launchpad for attacks.”

Ankara has argued that PKK's presence in Iraq threatens the planned construction of a major trade route, the Iraq Development Road, that would connect the port in Basra, southern Iraq, to Turkey and Europe through a network of rail lines and highways.

Baghdad may take a similar approach to the PKK as it has taken to Iranian Kurdish dissident groups based in northern Iraq.

The presence of Iranian dissidents had become a point of tension with Tehran, which periodically launches airstrikes on their bases in Iraq. Last summer, Iran and Iraq reached an agreement to disarm the groups and relocate their members from military bases to displacement camps.

Energy issues and water rights are also key in Iraq-Turkey ties.

An oil pipeline running from the semiautonomous Kurdish region to Turkey has been shut down since March 2023, after an arbitration court ruling ordered Ankara to pay Iraq $1.5 billion for oil exports that bypassed Iraq's central government in Baghdad. The sharing of oil and gas revenues has long been a contentious issue between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in Irbil.

In recent years, Iraqi officials have complained that dams built by Turkey are reducing Iraq’s water supply.

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which provide most of Iraq’s fresh water, originate in Turkey. Experts fear that climate change is likely to exacerbate existing water shortages in Iraq, with potentially devastating consequences.

Mustafa Hassan, a Baghdad resident, said he hopes that Erdogan’s visit “will help to solve problems related to water, because Iraq is suffering from a water scarcity crisis, and this affects agriculture.”

Erdogan said Ankara was aware of the water problems Iraq faces and that the two countries have set up "a joint permanent committee which is going to help through cooperation ... taking our shared interests into consideration.”

Fraser reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writers Andrew Wilks in Istanbul, Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington and Ali Jabar in Baghdad contributed to this report.

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani speak to the media after their talks, in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Erdogan was set to make his first official visit to Iraq in more than a decade on Monday April 22, 2024 as his country seeks greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against a Kurdish militant group that has a foothold in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani speak to the media after their talks, in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Erdogan was set to make his first official visit to Iraq in more than a decade on Monday April 22, 2024 as his country seeks greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against a Kurdish militant group that has a foothold in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Erdogan was set to make his first official visit to Iraq in more than a decade on Monday April 22, 2024 as his country seeks greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against a Kurdish militant group that has a foothold in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani shake hands during a welcome ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Erdogan was set to make his first official visit to Iraq in more than a decade on Monday April 22, 2024 as his country seeks greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against a Kurdish militant group that has a foothold in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

Next Article

Shaqiri scores stunning goal in Switzerland's 1-1 draw with Scotland at Euro 2024

2024-06-20 09:28 Last Updated At:09:30

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — “Shaq” did it again.

At the age of 32 and having left top-flight European soccer behind to play in MLS, Xherdan Shaqiri is back on the international stage and back scoring again.

His stunning first-half strike secured a 1-1 draw for Switzerland against Scotland at Euro 2024 on Wednesday.

It is the sixth-straight major international tournament in which Shaqiri has scored, dating to the World Cup in 2014.

That’s three World Cups in a row and now three European Championships for the Chicago Fire forward. According to UEFA he is the first player to achieve that feat.

“He proved tonight that he lives and breathes for moments like these,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said.

Shaqiri rolled back the years with a first-time curling effort from about 20 meters out at Cologne Stadium.

Scotland led from the 13th minute when Scott McTominay’s shot took a wicked deflection off Fabian Schar to beat Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

But Shaqiri pounced on Anthony Ralston’s loose pass in the 26th to even the match with a left-footed shot into the top corner and past Scotland keeper Angus Gunn.

“If that chance falls to any other player in the Swiss team, it’s not a goal,” Scotland manager Steve Clarke said. “You knew when it was rolling towards Shaqiri it was destined for the back of the net. He’s a top, top player, so you don’t give top, top players that kind of chance.”

Shaqiri’s career has seen him play for some of Europe’s most iconic teams, including Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool. He joined the Fire two years ago, but in that time has continued to produce for his country on the biggest stage.

“Shaq always gives everything in training,” Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji said. “I don’t know how many other players are able to score that goal.”

The draw leaves Switzerland on four points, second in Group A behind Germany and likely to advance to the round of 16.

Germany became the first nation to advance after a 2-0 win over Hungary earlier in the day.

Scotland’s hopes of making the knockout round depend on its final game against Hungary on Sunday and results elsewhere. No team has failed to advance from the group stage with four points.

Both teams had chances to win the game.

The Swiss should have taken the lead just before the hour mark when Dan Ndoye turned Kieran Tierney on the edge of the box. With just goalkeeper Angus Gunn to beat, Ndoye fired wide of goal.

Grant Hanley then headed against the post from a Scotland free kick and Switzerland’s Zeki Amdouni headed wide at the far post late on.

Scotland has never advanced beyond the group stage of a World Cup or Euros on 11 previous attempts.

But repeated disappointment doesn’t seem to dampen optimism among its fans, who filled Cologne’s square before the game.

Swiss supporters were out in numbers, too, creating a raucous atmosphere in the stadium.

It was certainly a more enjoyable evening for Scotland’s fans than the opening game of the Euros — a 5-1 loss to Germany.

“It was what we expected. It was a good reaction to a disappointing night. We’re still alive in the tournament,” Clarke said.

Goals from Jamal Musiala and İlkay Gündoğan made it two wins from two for host Germany after victory against Hungary and ensured there would be no repeat of its group stage exit from the 2022 World Cup.

Albania substitute Klaus Gjasula scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to hold World Cup semifinalist Croatia to a 2-2 draw in Group B. Gjasula’s own goal, just four minutes after entering the game in the second half, had looked like handing Croatia the win until his late strike.

James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, fouls Scotland's Billy Gilmour during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Ricardo Rodriguez, right, fouls Scotland's Billy Gilmour during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Scotland's Che Adams reacts during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Scotland's Che Adams reacts during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri and team mates celebrate their side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri and team mates celebrate their side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn fails to save a shot by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn fails to save a shot by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri scores his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri scores his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri, left, celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's Scott McTominay celebrates after Switzerland's Fabian Schar scored an own goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn is unable to stop a shot for a goal by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn is unable to stop a shot for a goal by Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates his side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates his side's equalising goal during a Group A match between Scotland and Switzerland at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

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