Turkey to host Iraqi Kurdish PM as West looks for alternates to Russian gas

Turkey, which has become a frequent destination of foreign dignitaries amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hosted another surprise guest today. Amberin Zaman broke the news that Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Masrour Barzani was visiting Turkey today. Barzani met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul. As Zaman reported, the visit, which marks Barzani’s second official trip to Turkey since taking office, came ahead of the premier’s scheduled trip to the United Kingdom and an expected new Turkish offensive against outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants inside Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

In a statement released after the meeting, Barzani noted that the two “discussed the situation of Iraq, the area and the relations between Kurdistan and Turkey and we focused on expanding the opportunities for the sake of security and stability of the area.”

Along with bilateral and regional issues, Barzani and Erdogan likely discussed potential plans to carry Iraqi Kurdish gas to Europe via Turkey as Western capitals are scrambling to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian natural gas.

Both Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan have been raising their profiles for potential gas projects amid the European quest for alternative resources and routes. Last month, Prime Minister Barzani announced that Iraqi Kurdistan would “become a net exporter of gas to the rest of Iraq, Turkey and Europe in the near future and help meet their energy security needs.”

Lying at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey stands as a unique energy corridor to carry Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbon resources to Europe. As Fehim Tastekin previously reported in Al-Monitor, Erdogan’s announcement of soon upcoming “good news” in the energy field was likely “hinting at possible markets for Iraqi Kurdish and Eastern Mediterranean gas” amid efforts to normalize diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel.

Citing Ankara sources, Nazlan Ertan reported that Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected to visit Israel at the end of April or in the first half of May. Turkey’s Energy Minister, Mehmet Donmez is also expected to visit Israel to “discuss how the two countries can cooperate, either bilaterally or via out-of-the-box multilateral cooperation, to create alternative sources of energy for European markets,” Ertan reported.

Yet, as the adage goes, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. As David O’Byrne reported in Al-Monitor previously, there was no “magic tap” that the EU could turn on. Several political and infra structural obstacles remain before potential projects to carry Eastern Mediterranean or Caspian gas to Europe via Turkey.

In addition to efforts to boost regional energy cooperation, Ankara has also amped up its efforts to mend ties with its former regional rivals. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Ankara diplomats described the efforts as a “five-pronged diplomatic drive” toward its former opponents, namely the United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, Ertan reported.

Erdogan is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan and he is scheduled to travel to the United Arab Emirates in February, as Andrew Wilks reported.

Speaking of fowls: We couldn’t let the week pass without mentioning “Bahtiyar,” a rooster after which the Turks from all walks of life mourn for. The country is bidding farewell to the globally renowned rooster, Bahtiyar, who achieved global fame by duly squawking until he passes out. Bahtiyar died on Wednesday due to respiratory problems, his owner Okan Gokbudak confirmed to Turkish media.

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