World Bulletin / News Desk
As enmity grows between Turkey and Iraq over a wide range of issues, the Turkish prime minister has reportedly sent an official invitation to Ankara to his Iraqi counterpart in a bid to defuse the tension.
In a surprise move, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invited Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Turkey to find solutions to halt the increasing animosity in relations between the two countries, which have deteriorated since the withdrawal of US troops at the end of the last year.
Turkey's hosting of Iraq's fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who was sentenced to death earlier this month in a terror trial on charges of running death squads, is the chief factor that has torn Ankara and Baghdad apart. Among other factors that deepened tensions between Turkey and Iraq is Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's controversial visit to Kirkuk.
Last month, Iraq said Turkey had violated Iraqi sovereignty by sending the Turkish foreign minister without official permission by the central government to visit Kirkuk, a city at the heart of a dispute between Baghdad and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region.
Agence France-Presse reported that an Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Turkish prime minister "sent an official invitation” to Maliki a few days ago to visit Ankara. "It is not certain whether he will accept," the official said.
Iraq is Turkey's second biggest export market after Germany, with trade volume reaching nearly $12 billion in 2011, a point Turkey's economy minister emphasized during a visit to northern Iraq early this year.
Maliki and Erdoğan have publicly traded insults several times this year as relations have soured.
Both prime ministers have engaged in tit-for-tat accusations over the past months. Erdoğan accused Maliki of amassing his power in Baghdad at expense of other political groups in the country. Erdoğan also several times blasted his counterpart for hounding political opponents and fomenting sectarian tension in the politically fragile country.
In return Maliki has vehemently criticized the Turkish prime minister for meddling in Iraq's internal affairs.