Minister: Iraq Vows to Fight 'Smart' Sanctions, Boost Trade with Turkey
Iraq will continue to fight against the adoption of so-called "smart" sanctions, and will work to boost trade with its neighbor Turkey, Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rashid said in Ankara Tuesday.
"Even if there is some kind of modification or softening (in the planned sanctions), it is impossible for us to accept them. Our resistance against the adoption of the draft will continue," Rashid said, after meetings with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and other officials, Anatolia news agency reported, cited by AFP.
"If this draft is passed by the UN Security Council, we might stop exporting oil," he added.
The US-backed British proposal to impose "smart" sanctions on Iraq was shelved at the UN Security Council earlier this month due to Russian opposition.
Rashid was in Ankara for an Iraq-Turkey economic cooperation committee meeting, which was to convene on Wednesday to discuss improved trade ties between the two countries.
Both Rashid and Turkish officials emphasized the two countries' desire to increase bilateral trade, which has severely diminished due to the 11-year embargo on Iraq, imposed for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Turkish State Minister Edip Safter Gaydali said the trade volume between Turkey and Iraq should reach its pre-Gulf War level of $2.5 billion.
Ankara's plans to open a second gate at the border with Iraq in a bid to help the revival of trade was also high on the agenda of Rashid's talks.
"We agreed that a second border gate is necessary," Rashid said.
Baghdad has recently said it would give priority to Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Russia in bilateral trade in a sign of gratitude for their stances regarding the "smart" sanctions.
Ankara, a NATO member that hosts US and British warplanes enforcing a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, has maintained that the project should not hurt Iraq's neighbors, who have already suffered due to the 11-year UN embargo.
Turkey puts its losses at about $35 billion.
Even though Baghdad has often blasted Ankara for regularly extending the mandate of the US and British patrol jets in the no-fly zone, the ties between the two countries have remarkably improved in recent months.
Turkey and Iraq have held a series of talks to revitalize trade and have restored train services between Baghdad and the southeast Turkish city of Gaziantep.
Ankara has also sent several planes to Baghdad carrying humanitarian supplies.
In another related development, an Iraqi trade official told the Lebanese Daily Star that Baghdad was trying to sign free trade agreements with Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria to bypass the trade restrictions imposed by the five-year-old UN oil-for-food program.
“Now that we have signed free trade agreements with Syria, Egypt and Tunisia,” said Hadi Taleb Ibrahim, head of the state-run Iraqi import-export firm at the ministry, “we want to close similar deals with the UAE, Jordan and Algeria.”
Iraq has already created a four-way free-trade agreement with Libya, Syria and Egypt, and is seeking other Arab states to join the arrangement.
“Our free trade agreements will allow us to provide the public and private sectors with all kinds of commodities, some of which cannot be provided under the oil-for-food program,” Ibrahim told the paper.
The official is in Lebanon to oversee an Iraqi trade fair in Beirut, said the paper – Albawaba.com
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