Turkey has appointed an ambassador to Iraq for the first time since the Gulf War and the envoy is expected to take office next week, a Turkish diplomat said Friday.
The new ambassador, Mehmet Akat, an expert on Turkey-Iraqi relations who previously served in the Turkish embassy in London, will go to Baghdad at the end of next week, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
He will replace the charge d'affaires of the embassy in Baghdad, Selim Karaosmanoglu, who has been at his post for the past several years.
The diplomat added that the posting of a new ambassador to Iraq -- a project that has been on Ankara's agenda for several months -- was finally realized after some "procedural hitches" were taken care of.
Turkey, which backed western nations in the 1991 Gulf War, has not had ambassador in Iraq since the conflict.
Ankara has previously spoken out against the decade-old sanctions imposed on Baghdad for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which it says has led to a loss of some 35 billion dollars.
Turkey is also mulling the idea of opening a second border gate to Iraq, while both countries have already agreed to open a rail link, running through Syria.
Iraq, on the other hand, often criticizes Turkey for its incursions into the Kurdish-held north of the country to hunt Turkish Kurd rebels, and for allowing western planes to use a base in southern Turkey to patrol northern Iraq.
Some 40 British and US planes are deployed at Incirlik airbase to monitor the northern no-fly zone imposed on Iraq after the Gulf War to protect the region's Kurdish population.
Baghdad does not recognize the northern no-fly zone, nor a similar exclusion zone in the south of the country aimed at protecting the Shiite Muslim population. Neither is authorized by any specific United Nations resolution -- ANKARA (AFP)
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