BAGHDAD — Joined by dozens of businessmen, Turkey’s prime minister led trade talks yesterday with Iraqi leaders that officials said would be a step toward greater regional stability as the Middle East roils from uprisings and unrest.
During his two-day visit to Iraq, Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned to meet one of Shi’ite Islam’s top spiritual leaders to discuss the crackdown on Shi’ite protesters in the Gulf nation of Bahrain. Erdogan is a Sunni leader whose premiership has greatly expanded Turkey’s regional influence.
He also appealed for more help from Baghdad in combating Kurdish rebels who seek greater rights in Turkey and operate from safe havens in the north of Iraq.
“From now on, we don’t want the terrorist organization to stand as a source of evil between us,’’ Erdogan said in reference to Kurdish rebels, who have been fighting for autonomy within Turkey from bases in northern Iraq for decades.
Erdogan urged Iraqi lawmakers to work in solidarity with Turkey against the Kurdistan Workers Party, saying that “would strengthen our regional brotherhood,’’ Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported. At the top of Erdogan’s agenda, however, were business investments, from boosting Iraq’s energy supplies launching construction in the war-torn nation.
“Iraq is a brotherly nation,’’ Anatolia quoted Erdogan as saying after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki. “For years we have felt in our hearts the ordeals and pain, and we have been following the developments since then with admiration.’’
He said investments and trade between Iraq and Turkey reached $7.5 billion in 2010.