The city of Basra (the capital of the al-Basra province in southern Iraq) has threatened to halt Turkish construction and investment projects in the province after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a statement accusing his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki of fomenting sectarianism.
The State of Law Coalition, which is headed by Maliki, controls Basra. Coalition members fill the posts of governor and head of the Provincial Council of Basra, in addition to most parliamentary seats.
The head of the Basra Provincial Council, Sabah al-Bazouni, told Al-Hayat: “After the recent statements that have targeted the top of the Iraqi state, we received requests from members of the council demanding that pressure be exerted on Turkey to change its position on the political process.” He explained that “the pressure will be exerted be through suspending the projects of Turkish companies.” He added that “many Turkish companies are operating and have investments in Basra. We must have some role in responding to Turkey’s interferences into the affairs of the central government, which we see as our administrative reference.”
He continued: “The Turkish government should have known that political statements targeting Iraq and its sovereignty would affect the relationship between the two countries, especially in terms of construction and investment.”
Turkish companies are working in construction projects in Iraq, including the Basra Sports City project, health institutions, road development and international exhibitions. There are almost 80 Turkish firms operating in Basra.
These threats come at a time when Basra (304 miles south of Baghdad) has signed a dual contract with South Korea. Basra also invited Japanese companies to come and replace the ousted Turkish firms.
Khalaf Abd-al-Samad, the governor of the city of Basra, was quoted warning Japanese companies against "partnering with Turkish companies because of Turkey's interference in Iraq's internal affairs, and the failure of Turkish companies to execute a few projects.” The statement added: “Turkish companies have failed to execute certain projects in the province, which reinforces the position of the government.” It is interesting to note that Basra previously threatened to become an administrative region independent from Baghdad, criticizing the government's performance in the field of reconstruction.
Erdogan accused Maliki of fomenting sectarian tensions. Maliki responded by calling Turkey an "enemy state."
Ankara summoned the Iraqi charge d'affaires on Tuesday, April 24, a day after Baghdad summoned the Turkish ambassador.