Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani will visit Turkey on Tuesday for talks including on scarce water resources and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Agence France-Presse reported, citing a government source.
Sudani is set to meet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his first visit to Iraq’s northern neighbor since he came to power in October, an adviser to the head of the Iraqi government told AFP, speaking anonymously.
“The two main issues are water and the presence of the PKK in northern Iraq,” he added, referring to the outlawed group that has been fighting the Turkish army for decades.
War-scarred Iraq is now digging ever deeper for water as a frenzy of dam-building, mainly in Turkey, sucks water out of the region’s two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Tigris and the Euphrates both have their sources in Turkey, and Baghdad has long accused Ankara of withholding water in dams that choke the rivers, dramatically reducing flows into Iraq.
According to official Iraqi statistics from last year, the level of the Tigris entering Iraq has dropped to just 35 percent of its average over the past century.
Declining river flows have been made worse by a dire lack of rainfall in recent years, coupled with poor irrigation practices in Iraq that see excessive exploitation of water from the rivers.
Amid criticism, Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq, Ali Rıza Güney, ruffled feathers last July when he said, “water is largely wasted in Iraq” and called on people to “use the available water more efficiently.”
Sudani will also discuss with Erdoğan the presence of rear bases of the militants from the PKK in northern Iraq, which Ankara has repeatedly sought to root out in air and ground operations.
The PKK has kept up a deadly insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.
Turkey has dozens of military facilities in northern Iraq for use in its war against the PKK, which Ankara and its Western allies list as a “terrorist” group.
In July 2022, Iraq blamed Turkey for artillery strikes on a park in Iraqi Kurdistan that killed nine civilians, including women and children.
Turkey denied its troops were responsible and blamed the PKK.