by Staff Writers
Arbil, Iraq (AFP) Oct 22, 2011
Turkey is battling Kurdish rebels with bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, but with billions of dollars in trade and hundreds of Turkish companies here, the region's economic links with Turkey are strong.
Kurdish and Turkish officials and an economics expert say the conflict between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish forces -- the latest round of which began on Wednesday -- will not harm Kurdistan-Turkey trade.
The PKK, which took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeast Turkey in 1984, killed 24 Turkish soldiers in a series of attacks early on Wednesday. Turkey then launched air and ground attacks on the PKK in Turkey and Iraq.
Fathi Mohammed al-Mudaris, adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) trade and industry ministry, said that "the current economic relationship between the Kurdistan region and Turkey is very good."
And progress is being made towards "strategic mutual projects between Turkey and the region," he said, including negotiations on establishing a "trade and industrial zone on the border."
Asked if the Turkey-PKK conflict would harm trade between Kurdistan and Turkey, he said: "No, these political problems will not affect any trade or economic activity between Turkey and the region."
"It is not the KRG's problem. The policy of the KRG is to have stronger relations with the neighbouring countries."
Mudaris said Turkish companies now make up 55 percent of foreign companies operating in Kurdistan and that more than than "800 Turkish companies are already registered in our ministry."
Citing various studies and institutions, he said trade between Turkey and Kurdistan amounted to at least $4 billion (2.9 billion euros) in 2010, excluding oil and gas produced by the region, which is handled by the central government.
"Turkey is the main source for most imports to the Kurdistan region," he said.
Companies and banks with Turkish names in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, are visible signs of its economic ties with Turkey.
There are a number of Turkish restaurants and stores in Family Mall, the main shopping centre in Arbil. In one department store, signs are written first in Turkish, then Arabic and Kurdish.
Aydin Selcen, the Turkish consul general in Arbil, also said that economic ties between Kurdistan and Turkey are strong.
"Iraq in general is one of our top three partners, if you look at the economic relations for Turkey. And within that, of course, this region is a priority," the consul said.
"As of 2010, our export volume to Iraq in total is $7.5 billion. Seventy percent of this, we estimate, is towards the Iraqi Kurdistan region," he said.
"More than half of the foreign companies registered here in Arbil are from Turkey -- the number is 935 as of last week," Selcen said, adding that Turkey has a strong presence in the oil and gas and construction sectors in Kurdistan.
Selcen told AFP he does not think the PKK-Turkey conflict, including the recent fighting, would cause problems in trade or economic ties with Kurdistan.
He said that the conflict has been going on for almost three decades now, but links between the Kurdistan region and Turkey -- both economic and political -- were still strong.
"I think the relationship between the Kurdistan region and other countries within the Middle East region, especially Turkey ... is getting better and better," said Dr Mohammed Salman Barwary, who teaches economics and finance at Salaheddin University in Arbil.
But he described the trade relationship as "imbalanced," saying "(we) import from Turkey and we have no exports to Turkey -- we export our money and we export our oil, but we import everything from Turkey and other countries in the region."
"I think not less than 40 or 50 percent of all imports are from Turkey," Barwary added.
Asked if the Turkey-PKK conflict would hurt trade, he downplayed the risks.
"I don't think the politicians and the Kurdish commerce sector ... will decrease or decline their dealings" with Turkey.
"It is not between our regime and the Turkish regime -- I think it is an internal issue in Turkey. Yes, the PKK are Kurdish, but I think it is not our problem," Barwary said. "It is a Turkish problem."
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US seeks to increase flow of military goods via Uzbekistan
Tashkent (AFP) Oct 22, 2011
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