Sunday, January 26, 2014

Turkey corruption scandal and political crisis updates January 26 , 2013..... Gül criticized for inaction on political crisis in wake of graft probe .... Corruption and impropriety not new to AK Party rule .... Turkish minister says ‘parallel state' claims not realistic, cites lack of evidence ..... Regional politics , PM Erdogan seeks to strengthen ties with Iran even as ties with Iraq flounder.......


Gül criticized for inaction on political crisis in wake of graft probe

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Turkish President Abdullah Gül (Photo: Reuters)
26 January 2014 /ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ/BUKET YILMAZ, ANKARA
President Abdullah Gül, who has adopted a soft stance since the breaking of the vast corruption operation in December of last year, is receiving criticism for failing to prevent the executive branch from meddling in the area of judicial authority, which analysts say has led to the eruption of a “crisis of state.”
Analysts believe that a historic responsibility falls on the president to make sure the judiciary independently investigates claims of corruption and bribery in which some members of the government are allegedly involved. However, as the president has failed to fulfill this responsibility, the government feels freer to engage in a series of unlawful acts to impede the investigation.
Professor Mehmet Altan, an academic and writer, has said a number of developments that have occurred since the corruption investigation became public in mid-December of 2013 have led to the “collapse of the state,” and the only thing the president has been doing since then is watching. “If the police defy decisions by prosecutors and courts [to launch an operation against corruption suspects], then we can say that the state is collapsing. If a government-backed proposal [on the restructuring of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK)] that will make it impossible for the judiciary to investigate the corruption-linked actions of executive power is adopted in Parliament, it will be the last nail in the coffin for the collapsing state,” he cautioned.
When the corruption investigation became public on Dec. 17, 2013, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sought to discredit the investigation by calling it a “foreign plot” and an “attempt to damage the government made by a parallel state nested within the state.” Dozens of people, including businessmen close to the government and the sons of three former ministers, were detained as part of the probe. Of these, 24 were later arrested. In order to prevent the probe from deepening, the prime minister ordered the removal of thousands of police officers and tens of prosecutors who contributed to the probe. Some 3,000 police officers and many prosecutors have been removed from duty and reassigned to less significant posts.
Furthermore, Erdoğan's government proposed a bill to restructure the HSYK, the country's key judicial council, which is responsible for appointments, promotions and removals in the judiciary.
The proposal, according to its critics, seeks to subordinate the HSYK to the government by increasing the justice minister's control over the HSYK and thus curbing the authority of the board. The bill will give the government a tighter grip on the judiciary, according to critics.
These developments later evolved into a “crisis of state,” with the government using all means possible to prevent other branches of the state -- judicial bodies and the police in particular -- from functioning, so that the corruption probe would not deepen.
According to Altan, the president should have ordered an investigation into figures who prevented judges and prosecutors from duly investigating corruption claims. “Unfortunately, he did not do this. What duty will he fulfill if he will not do this?” the professor asked.
The opposition parties have long appealed to the president to step in to prevent the government from putting pressure on the judiciary and the police force to stop the investigation.
Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Engin Altay said that Article 104 of the Constitution defines the president as the head of the state. “The president symbolizes the republic and the unity of the people. He is responsible for a harmonious functioning of all state branches,” he stated.
Article 104 of the Constitution states that the president is obliged to act as the head of state. Article 104 defines this duty thus: “The president of the republic is the head of state. In this capacity, s/he shall represent the Republic of Turkey and the unity of the Turkish nation; s/he shall ensure the implementation of the Constitution, and the regular and harmonious functioning of the organs of the state.”
“When will the president use the authority vested in him by the Constitution? A war is going on among the constitutional organs of the country. There is a smear campaign against the judiciary and the police force. The executive branch is putting pressure on the judiciary. The president cannot remain silent in such an atmosphere. We [the CHP] are calling on the president to fulfill his responsibilities based on the Constitution,” Altay noted.

'President should preside over Cabinet'

Levent Köker, a professor of constitutional law, has said the president has broad constitutional authority to step in and solve the political crisis Turkey is currently experiencing. “As part of his authority, the president should call Cabinet to a meeting and preside over the meeting,” he said.
Article 104 of the Constitution states that the president has the power to preside over the Cabinet or call Cabinet members to meet under his presidency whenever he deems it necessary.
President Gül has never presided over Cabinet. If he does this, the move will send a strong message to the prime minister that the president is not pleased with what the prime minister and his government has been doing and that the president sees it necessary to preside over the Cabinet to end the misdeeds of the government.
According to Köker, a crisis erupted between the executive and the judiciary after the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption operation and the crisis is deepening. “The president should try all his means to help the state organs function in harmony. The executive branch has been working to discredit the judiciary. The president should stop this. He should remind [the executive] of the universal principles of law. He should stress that unpopular decisions of the judiciary can only be fixed by the judiciary,” he said, and cautioned that if the president does not do this, then the situation will continue in a worse direction. “People will no longer have trust in the law. This will eventually lead to the eruption of a crisis that will endanger our national unity.”
As a step to restore people's trust in the judiciary, according to Köker, the president should veto the HSYK bill if it is adopted by Parliament. “What the government is hoping to do with this bill is very clear. The bill is as against the Constitution as asking to change the capital. The president should prevent the bill from being implemented. He could veto the bill or make it wait in his office. He could preside over the Cabinet. Or he could hold meetings with high-ranking members of the judiciary to find a solution to the problem. The position he assumes against the bill is very important,” stated the professor.
Gül has said several times that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the opposition parties should compromise on a constitutional amendment to overhaul the HSYK. Last week, he publicly said that hopes for such a compromise are growing dimmer. It remains a mystery, for now, whether the president is planning to sign or veto the bill.



Corruption and impropriety not new to AK Party rule

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Former Finance Minister Kemal Unakıtan delivers a speech in Parliament during 2009 budget talks. (Photo: Sunday's Zaman)
26 January 2014 /ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ, ANKARA
When four government ministers were forced to resign as a result of a corruption and bribery investigation in mid-December, it elicited a fierce debate in Turkey about the timing of the probe; especially curious was the fact that prosecutors had not sprung into action earlier, but waited until the run-up to local elections.
The truth is that the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) 11 years of leadership have been marked by many allegations of corruption and impropriety. Some of these allegations have gone as far as the court system, while others have died down over time.
Here are just some of the allegations and consequent debates that have marked the AK Party's 11 years in power:

Finance Minister Unakıtan and his son

The first name to get mixed up in allegations of AK Party corruption was Abdullah Unakıtan, son of former Finance Minister Kemal Unakıtan. The allegations were that Abdullah Unakıtan, without lifting a finger, had earned TL 366 billion.
Before April 17, 2003, the customs tax on corn imports had been reduced 20 percent; on Aug. 4 of that same year, Abdullah Unakıtan imported 4,000 tons of corn. After the deal went through, on Aug. 8, 2003, customs taxes on corn were increased by 45 percent.
Abdullah Unakıtan also got into the pasteurized egg business. His company AB Gıda Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş. was given a certificate that made the company eligible for TL 2.5 million in tax incentives. Before the business actually started operation, the value-added tax on pasteurized eggs was reduced from 18 percent to just 8 percent.
Kemal Unakıtan ran in the parliamentary elections of Nov. 3, 2002 on the invitation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and was elected as a deputy for Eskişehir. He also served as the finance minister in the 58th government. The Privatization Administration (ÖİB), which had been subordinated to the Prime Minister's Office, was put under the Finance Ministry on March 27, 2002, after Erdoğan became prime minister.
After the Finance Ministry was given authority over the ÖİB, corruption allegations against Unakıtan about several privatization tenders surfaced. AK Party Balıkesir deputy Turhan Çömez sharply criticized Unakıtan at a closed party meeting, claiming that he had been “using privatization tenders for his own interests.” Unakıtan's response to that particular piece of criticism was: “He might be angry about something. Perhaps he'll switch to another party.”
Despite the corruption allegations and three motions of censure against him, Unakıtan was nominated by Erdoğan as a deputy candidate in the parliamentary elections of 2007 and then reappointed him as finance minister. Finally, in a May 2009 revision to his Cabinet, Erdoğan removed Unakıtan from the post.
The talk in the back corridors of Ankara at the time was that Erdoğan had harsh words for Unakıtan while dismissing him: “Forget about being a government minister and don't even think about being deputy anymore. Go back to your hometown and don't ever look back at Ankara.”

Green card impropriety

A new law providing health insurance to the poor was passed by Parliament on July 3, 1992. According to the “green card” law, only citizens whose incomes were one-third of the monthly minimum wage were allowed to obtain a green card.
From the time this law was enacted in 1992 to the time the AK Party came to power in 2002, the number of citizens holding green cards in Turkey was 200,000. During the first year of AK Party rule, this number more than quadrupled to reach 906,000. By the year 2004, the number had increased even more; 6.3 million people had obtained green cards.
In this way the most basic principle of this law, that the citizen holding the green card must be earning just one-third of the minimum wage, was sacrificed for political gain. There seemed to be a parallel between registration for membership in the AK Party and registration for a green card.
Contractors were among those receiving undeserved green cards. One such person was Emine Alioğlu, a member of the board of directors of the AK Party women's branch. Alioğlu and her husband Cevit formed the Ekrim Construction Company in June 2003 with assets valued at TL 25 million. In its first year of operation alone, the company won 10 of 50 station renewal tenders held by Turkish State Railways (TCDD). Around that time it became known that the entire Alioğlu family, including Emine and her husband's four children, had green cards despite the fact that this special benefit was originally intended only for citizens in low income brackets.
The Ministry of Health moved to cancel 1 million green cards upon finding that many had been distributed improperly. The state had spent TL 657 million on the green card program in 2004 and by cutting 1 million of the cards saved around TL 74 million.
While the country was busy debating the exploitation of the green card program and the millions of lira in losses it caused, another topic rose to the top of the agenda: former bosses of bankrupt banks found guilty of embezzlement during the Feb. 28, 1997 military memorandum. Apparently, many of them had been using VIP salons in Turkish airports. Cemil Çiçek, justice minister at the time, spoke publicly about having witnessed this: “I saw someone whose bank had been confiscated by the state in a VIP salon at the airport. His shoes cost an entire month's salary of some of my employees. How is that possible? How can he be in a VIP salon?”
A CHP brochure from the time described the situation in these terms: “Halis Toprak sent his private helicopter to go pick up AK Party head Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and took him to his villa in Bozüyük. Some former bank owners who stole from their own banks participated in the meeting. How can the prime minister hang out with those who embezzled from their own banks and then close the doors of VIP salons to these same men?”

Damage to the TMSF

Banks that failed in the economic crisis of 2001 as well as their assets were turned over to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF). This fund worked with bank owners to buy the banks' assets at inflated prices -- and later sell them at a loss -- allowing the banks to cover their debts.
One such company was the Ceylan Group. The TMSF bought the Deluxe Resort Hotel in Antalya from the Ceylan Group for $52 million -- enough to pay off the group's bank debt.
The CHP questioned why the state bought this hotel for $52 million in 2003 but sold it for $25 million in 2005. “On the one hand, embezzlers are lining their pockets with money from state funds. And on the other hand, assets are being stolen from the people of the country and then sold to an AK Party-supporting company at prices that make these assets literally presents.”

A gift for the SEKA media boss

On May 13, 2003, the state-owned Cellulose and Paper Factory (SEKA) in Balıkesir -- including around 1,800 hectares of land, worker residences, recreational facilities and other assets -- was sold to a private company for some $1.1 million. Though the value of the paper mill was estimated at around $51 million before the tender, the Supreme Privatization Board (ÖYK) approved the sale of the factory and its assets to Albayraklar Holding on June 24, 2003, after a single bid was made.
The sale of the paper mill gave Albayraklar Holding, the owner of the pro-AK Party Yeni Şafak daily, a great advantage over its competitors, which were forced to import paper. As soon as Albayraklar Holding took over SEKA, 282 workers were fired. Later, the paperworkers union sued to cancel the sale.
On July 28, 2003, the Bursa 2nd Administrative Court ruled that the sale of the mill -- which had been valuated at $51 million -- for just $1.1 million violated the public interest as well as privatization law. The court then moved to reverse the sale, notifying the ÖİB in Ankara of its ruling.
But the ÖİB, which had ties to the Prime Minister's Office, challenged the ruling. The case then went to a higher regional court, which upheld the first ruling made in Bursa. The ÖİB, though bound to implement the ruling, didn't follow through and nothing was done to cancel the sale of SEKA to Albayraklar Holding.
One month later, the Bursa court moved once again to officially cancel the privatization of SEKA. But the ÖİB again refused to implement the decision and appealed to the Council of State.
The Council of State ruled on May 7, 2004 to reject the ÖİB's appeal. But the ÖİB still refused to cancel the sale.
The Council of State then ordered SEKA to be returned to state ownership.
But the ÖİB was not to be dissuaded from its attempts to get around the ruling. It filed yet another appeal with the Council of State, which the Council of State rejected in June 2005. From the very beginning, when the Bursa 2nd Administrative Court ordered the cancelation of the sale of the factory to when the ÖİB was forced to implement the ruling, the question went back and forth for three years and saw six court rulings.
After three years of struggle between Ankara's ÖİB and the justice system, all legal pathways had been exhausted. Nevertheless, the ÖİB still didn't implement the court's decision. In September 2011, CHP Balıkesir deputy Namık Havutça submitted a parliamentary question asking Erdoğan to clarify the SEKA issue. No response, however, was forthcoming.
In a similar vein, the privatization of holdings such as Eti Aluminum A.Ş. and the ports of Kuşadası and Çeşme, as well as the sale of shares in the Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation (TÜPRAŞ), also went to the courts.
In the meantime, the AK Party government was preparing to make legal changes to Cabinet's authority.
While Law No. 6300 was being drafted, Albayraklar Holding made its final payment of $794,000 for SEKA -- which the company had purchased nine years before -- on Aug. 22, 2012. Parliament passed the AK Party's privatization law on April 26, 2013.
The Cabinet refused to execute the court's decision and prevented the sale of the SEKA paper factory at a higher price.

Much-debated Ofer

An allegedly illegal deal between the AK Party government and an Israeli businessman that earned the Israeli $755 million in just six months is also mired in controversy.
After closed-door negotiations, some 14.76 percent of state refinery TÜPRAŞ's shares were sold to Israeli businessman Sammy Ofer for $446 million. But when 51 percent of TÜPRAŞ's shares were sold by the government six months later, it became clear that Ofer had grossly underpaid for his stock. Comparing the two sales -- which took place within six months of each other, one as a public offering, the other a backroom deal -- Turkey lost $755 million in the sale to Ofer.
The Council of State ruled in October 2013 to make selling government assets without holding public tenders illegal. But this ruling was never implemented. Erdoğan at first denied that he knew Ofer, and later admitted to having met him once. But in the end, it emerged that Ofer and the prime minister had met more than once.
Also, then-Finance Minister Unakıtan met many times with the Ofer family regarding privatization tenders for the Kuşadası port, Galataport and TÜPRAŞ. There were also allegations that Unakıtan flew to Hong Kong on Ofer's private jet.

Regional corruption

In a scandal in Hatay that came to be known as “Ali Dibo,” media outlets reported that handwritten notes by former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said public tenders should be divvied up among AK Party supporters. The person who brought this culture of corruption to light was, in fact, an AK Party deputy.
Documents revealing how the AK Party took advantage of public tenders at the regional level saw broad media coverage in Turkey. In just a short time, it became clear that Ali Dibo culture was not limited to Hatay, but existed in many places, including Çorum, İstanbul, Samsun, Sinop, Ankara, Kırklareli, Gümüşhane, Bolu, Afyonkarahisar, Adana and Amasya.
When the term “Ali Dibo” began appearing very frequently in the media, Erdoğan said, “When an AK Party supporter enters into a public tender worth some TL 10, 20 or 50 billion, that man is finished. … Stop wagging your tongues. Not fair. I mean, are not AK Party supporters also the children of this country?”
This, despite the fact that this same prime minister had said not long before, “Work and politics are separate; those who want to be contractors need to head somewhere else.”



Turkish minister says ‘parallel state' claims not realistic, cites lack of evidence

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Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı (Photo: DHA, Muhammet Kaçar)
25 January 2014 /TODAYSZAMAN.COM, İSTANBUL
A Turkish minister has rejected claims of “parallel state” as “not very realistic,” citing lack of evidence and document to back up the oft-cited claims frequently voiced by prime minister and government officials.  
Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı told reporters on Saturday in Black Sea town of Rize that there is lack of evidence to substantiate claims of “parallel state,” recalling the government's motto of “one state, one flag, one homeland, one nation.”
As a far-reaching corruption scandal has shaken the roots of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, with three ministers resigning from their post over allegations of bribery and tender rigging, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has struck a defiant tone, deeming the graft probe an international plot to weaken his ruling party and Turkey.
With the probe widening, some journalists affiliated with the ruling AK Party -- along with the prime minister and government officials -- have labeled the Hizmet movement an organization within the state, a "parallel state."
“In these lands, there can never be a parallel structure along with the state but some people are said to be involved in parallel implementation [of their duty] within the state's administrative scheme. These could be said. I think considering these as a parallel state is not very realistic. This cannot happen because there is only one state. There are claims that there are parallel works within the state's administrative scheme considering the recent events. These all of course should be unearthed with evidence and documents. If such a [parallel state] is spotted, we all will see it together,” Yazıcı told reporters, according to a text provided by private Cihan news agency.




Regional politics.....


Erdoğan's visit to Tehran aims to 

strengthen ties with Iran

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26 January 2014 /DENİZ ARSLAN, ANKARA
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is scheduled to make a two-day official visit to Tehran at the end of this month to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for the first time since he was elected last summer.
The highlight of the visit will probably be the signing of a high-level strategic cooperation agreement between the two countries, experts say. “Turkey has signed high-level strategic cooperation agreements with many close neighbors, but signing one with Iran has never been mentioned before. It is a sign of developing closer relations,” said Bayram Sinkaya, an expert on Iran issues from Yıldırım Beyazıt University.
“For Turkey, Iran softening its relations with Western countries and the West easing up on sanctions towards Iran definitely opens up a way for better, closer relations with the country,” said Sinkaya, speaking to Sunday's Zaman on Thursday.
Sinkaya said that Turkish-Iranian relations gained momentum after Rouhani was elected as Iran's new president last year. The tone of relations between the two countries has been a bit subdued due to different positions on Syria, specifically because Iran supports the Syrian regime. Though Turkey and Iran back different sides in Syria, they have mutual concerns about a reawakening of sectarianism in the region and have agreed to work together against sectarian threats.
Due to economic sanctions on Iran, Tehran needed Turkey. Following a nuclear deal with Western powers and the election of President Rouhani, who aims to have better relations with the world, Iran's need for Turkey as an international channel of communication seems to be diminishing.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said last month that Turkey aims to develop closer relations with Iran, thus the high number of visits between the two countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Rouhani is also expected to pay a visit to Turkey in February, right after Erdoğan's visit to Iran.
Erdoğan's visit on Jan. 28 will mark the first meeting between the Turkish prime minister and Rouhani. When Davutoğlu was in Tehran in late November of last year, he announced that Rouhani would visit Turkey in December 2013 to attend the Şeb-i Arus ceremony, which commemorates the anniversary of the death of Sufi mystic and Islamic scholar Mevlana Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi.
However, it was announced later that rather than the new president, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would be visiting Turkey; that visit was also eventually canceled due to Zarif's tight schedule. Iran issued an invitation for Erdoğan to go to Iran before Rouhani's yet to be re-scheduled visit to Turkey. “Our President Rouhani invites Erdoğan to Tehran first,” said Zarif during a joint press conference with Davutoğlu on Dec. 4.
Gökhan Bacık, a professor of international relations at Ankara's İpek University, stressed that Rouhani changing the program and calling Erdoğan over rather than visiting Turkey first was interesting. Speaking to Sunday's Zaman, Bacık said, “It seems meaningful to me,” but did not elaborate much, adding that ‘'There is no need to explain, the situation explains itself.”
Questioning Turkish press reports, Sinkaya has put forward a different idea by saying that he does not see any problems in this scheduling. “Rouhani's counterpart is Turkish President Abdullah Gül, not Erdoğan. Gül visited Iran in 2011. Rouhani's visit was on the agenda. In accordance with diplomatic protocol, they wanted Erdoğan to visit first. I do not see a problem in this,” said Sinkaya, adding that it is far-fetched to come to a conclusion that there is a problem in relations, especially when the two countries are preparing to sign a high-level strategic cooperation agreement. “It is a big development to have reached a point when Turkey and Iran are going to sign this agreement,” said Sinkaya.
A scheduled meeting between Erdoğan and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was postponed in March 2012 when, amid heightened discussions on differing views regarding Syria, Iran said the president had been suffering of gastrorrhagia. Erdoğan arrived in Tehran before dawn accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and officials for discussions on Syria, Iran's nuclear program and closer economic ties, but Ahmadinejad made Erdoğan wait more than 24 hours before the meeting.




Oil deal with Arbil cuts short Ankara-Baghdad honeymoon

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An Iraqi oil worker work in an oil refinery. (Photo: AP)
26 January 2014 /İREM KARAKAYA, İSTANBUL
It was only six months ago that Turkey and Iraq decided to leave all their old disputes behind and turn to a new page in their troubled relationship with the help of intensified diplomatic efforts and an increasing number of high-level visits; however, it didn't take long for Ankara and Baghdad to be at loggerheads again when the central Iraqi government's fears related to Turkey's independent oil deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) re-emerged.
It was in late September that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in Ankara, “It is high time to close this page [in bilateral relations] and open a new one,” during a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu, whom he called “my dear brother,” and he went on to say that despite all differences of opinion, there aren't any problems between Turkey and Iraq that cannot be solved.
However, commitment to resolving problems fell short in the face of national interests. On Jan. 17, Reuters reported that Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi announced that Iraq is preparing to take legal and other measures to punish Turkey for its involvement in Kurdish exports of “smuggled” oil without the central government's consent.
Although Turkey says that it is respectful of Iraq's sensitivities regarding territorial integrity and claims that it is acting in compliance with the Iraqi federal constitution that allocated shares of energy revenues to the KRG, the KRG's announcement of start of the flow of crude oil to Turkey through the new pipeline in late January angered the Baghdad government and risked the fragile thaw that had developed.
Preparations for a lawsuit against the Turkish government have begun, Luaibi reportedly said, for allowing Kurdistan to pump oil through the export pipeline without the approval of the Iraqi central government. He underlined that by signing deals without Iraqi consent, Turkey is jeopardizing bilateral trade worth $12 billion a year and he reiterated that the energy issue touches on the independence and unity of Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who had been scheduled to visit Turkey this month, also recently voiced his uneasiness with the energy deal between Ankara and Arbil, saying, “This is a constitutional violation,” during an interview with Reuters.
Meanwhile, the Turkish side is keeping its silence on the issue. Before his departure for Brussels, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that according to the custom regarding diplomatic visits, it is Maliki's turn to come to Turkey. He added that the KRG has constitutional rights to 17 percent of the revenue from oil sales and maintained, “All of the issues beyond this are empty talk.”
Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, an academic at Ankara's Gazi University and the head of the Center for International Strategic and Security Studies (USGAM), told Sunday's Zaman that Turkey was in search of a way to revise its foreign relations and it had preferred to use Iraq as starting point; however, Turkey's initiative is worrisome to some countries and that's why the honeymoon between Ankara and Baghdad lasted such a short time.
“At that time Iraq had two choices: burn the bridges with Turkey and Arbil or turn to a blank page. Iraq preferred to turn to a new page; however, its decision bothered both the US and Iran. The trilateral committee of Turkey, the KRG and Iraq was spoiled after Maliki's Iran visit. The US doesn't want Turkey to follow independent policies in the region either and often urges it to see Baghdad as the legitimate addressee,” Erol said.
When asked about the calculations that Maliki made about the upcoming Iraqi election, Erol said Iraq trusts the US and Iran, and if Turkey lashes out at Iraq it will also mean opposing Washington and Tehran.
One of the reasons that Iraq looked likely to have improved relations with Turkey was the coming parliamentary elections. During the local elections held last April, Maliki's State of Law Coalition received fewer votes than expected. Seeing the reduced support from his nation, Maliki started to consult with Iraq's north and Maliki turned to Iraq's immediate neighbor, Turkey, to gain Ankara's support and get the upper hand before next April election.
Birol Akgün, an expert from the Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE) agreed that although Turkey believed that it could successfully establish good relations with Iraq, Maliki's desire to keep Shiite support and Iran's effect spoiled the relationship.
“We thought that the good relations would last longer and that the normalization process would be completed. However, the biggest problem is the upcoming elections in Iraq. Maliki doesn't want to create bad relations with Shiites by taking sides with a Sunni country. There is also Iran's effect on this deterioration, due to the Syria crisis,” Akgün told Sunday's Zaman.
Yet another reason for the hiatus between Ankara and Baghdad is the fact that Iraq and the KRG haven't reached an agreement on division energy revenue shares yet, Akgün said. However, he also noted that Iraq is just bluffing, as there is no other logical route for Iraqi oil to reach to the rest of the world.
According to Akgün, until the April elections in Iraq are over, no one should expect a positive development in the relations between Turkey and Baghdad.
The crisis about Turkey having energy agreements with the KRG broke out in December 2013. Media reports said that Turkey and the KRG had signed a package of landmark deals that would see the Kurdish region's oil and gas exported via pipelines in Turkey. Although the Turkish government initially denied signing such an deals, Baghdad barred private Turkish jets from flying to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region at a time when Energy Minister Taner Yıldız was set to travel to Arbil for an energy conference. The plane that was carrying Yıldız first landed in the Iraqi capital.