BAGHDAD, (AFP) – Turkey has been dealing with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region as though it were an independent state, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in a statement released on Saturday.
Turkey is “dealing with the (Kurdistan) region as an independent state, and this is rejected by us,” Maliki said in a soon-to-be broadcast interview with a Turkish television channel, according to the statement on his website.
If Turkey “wants to establish good relations, its relations with the region must be built through the gate of Iraq,” Maliki said.
His remarks come after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and made a side trip to Kirkuk, a disputed city which Kurdish authorities want to incorporate into their region over the federal government’s objections, without informing Baghdad.
The visit incensed Iraqi authorities and brought already-chilly ties between Baghdad and Ankara to a new low.
In July, a Kurdish official said the region had begun to export oil to Turkey without Baghdad’s permission, a move which the Iraqi central government termed “illegal.”
Baghdad and Arbil are at odds over issues including Kurdistan’s refusal to seek approval from the central government for oil contracts it has awarded to foreign firms, and over a swathe of disputed territory in northern Iraq.
Two-way trade between Turkey and the three-province Kurdistan region — which has its own flag, government and security forces but is still a part of Iraq — amounts to billions of dollars per year.