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France scores huge Iraqi development undertaking at Turkey’s expense

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Jan 13, 2021

Turkey has misplaced a serious development bid in Mosul to the French, the newest curveball France has thrown Turkey within the two nations’ battle for affect within the Middle East and North Africa area. 

Iraq has come to a preliminary settlement with a French firm for the renovation of Mosul International Airport, a undertaking Turkey has been eagerly eyeing since 2019 as a part of its bold plans to be closely concerned within the reconstruction of Iraq following the 2014 Islamic State takeover. The central Iraqi authorities approved the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority to barter and signal a deal for the reconstruction of the airport with France’s Aeroports de Paris Ingenierie on Dec. 27.

The announcement of the unhealthy information for Turkey got here from the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad, who had been lobbying on behalf of the Turkish firms. “Turkish contractors made attractive offers to renovate and operate the Mosul Airport through direct investment,” Fatih Yildiz wrote on Twitter on Jan. 8. “Apparently, someone else will do this project.”

The timing of the Iraqi authorities’s determination was telling because it got here solely days after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s Dec. 17 go to to Ankara throughout which the Iraqi premier emphasised bilateral cooperation between the 2 neighbors. Sources instructed Al-Monitor on situation of anonymity that Kadhimi has given no ensures on the airport matter in his assembly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Turkey’s expectations for a win had been excessive as Baghdad welcomed the provide in 2019 when Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq conveyed the Turkish proposal to his Iraqi counterparts. Iraq’s then secretary-general of the Council of Ministers, Hamid al-Ghazi, mentioned again then that Turkey was planning to renovate the airport below “a special investment model.” Yet Aeroports de Paris Ingenierie’s decade-old expertise within the Iraqi aviation scene and political milieu appear to have outdone the Turkish provide.

Aeroports de Paris Ingenierie has undertaken a number of initiatives in Iraq since 2010, together with renovation of the Baghdad, Basra and Mosul airports and development of the Dahuk airport. It additionally joined forces with a British firm for the design of the Middle Euphrates airport some 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Najaf. 

According to a former Iraqi authorities official acquainted with the decision-making course of, a number of causes factored into the French success. The French firm, which has centered on the undertaking for some 4 years — lengthy earlier than the Turkish provide — joined forces with an area associate that has a clout within the Iraqi authorities circles. Aside from missing an area associate, the Turkish provide was primarily based on the build-operate-transfer mannequin, whereas the French agency has solely been within the development half, the supply mentioned.

The interesting side of the Turkish plan was its financing. Turkey was planning to finance the undertaking by a $5 billion mortgage Turkey pledged for the reconstruction of Iraq throughout a donors’ convention in 2018. But Aeroports de Paris Ingenierie got here up with its personal monetary resolution by a French authorities mortgage, the small print of which aren’t but clear. 

“Turkey usually uses diplomatic and political channels for these sorts of projects, but that’s not how things are working in Iraq,” the supply mentioned. “Turkish companies are not powerful on the ground. The ones that win are the ones that have local partners.” 

The supply mentioned political variations between Ankara and Baghdad performed no function within the determination, stressing that Kadhimi is extra prepared to work with Turkey than his predecessors. 

Yet some observers mentioned they imagine that ignoring the political side within the Iraqi authorities’s determination would solely inform a half-truth as Turkey’s nostalgic approach to Mosul — a former Ottoman territory that many Turks nonetheless see as a homeland taken away unfairly — has lengthy been a supply of irritation for a lot of Iraqis.

An Iraqi skilled who labored as a advisor for a number of Iraqi corporations till the Islamic State takeover in 2014 mentioned Turkey’s ideological approach has been a significant component in Turkey’s being omitted of the working. “Turkey has a great potential to do business in Iraq. In fact, this potential still remains intact,” the skilled instructed Al-Monitor. “But the [Turkish] government has adopted a very ideological approach, and lost. The airport project is the latest example of this.”

Furthermore, the Turkish firm searching for the undertaking, Kurk Construction, which primarily operates in Iraqi Kurdistan, lacked expertise when it got here to airports. To prop up its possibilities, the corporate joined forces with one other Turkish firm, Kalyon, a favourite of Turkey’s ruling get together and one of many three companions that had been awarded the development and operation of the brand new Istanbul airport. Yet the consortium’s proposed build-operate-transfer mannequin was additionally dangerous to afford for the Iraqi facet, sources who’ve information on the matter mentioned.

Under the Turkish plan, development prices for reconstruction of the runway and the principle terminal had been estimated at $100 million, with $200 million extra for a second runway and a cargo terminal. In return, Turkey set two situations. One was for Iraqi authorities to keep the safety of the airport. The different was for a assure of 50,000 passengers month-to-month below a 20-year contract. Iraqi authorities was to pay for the loss by itself ought to the variety of month-to-month passengers beneath this determine. Although Ankara tried to guarantee the Iraqi authorities that this would not occur given the worldwide flights to and from main Turkish airports, Baghdad didn’t need to take the chance.

Moreover, some in Iraq noticed the Turkish eagerness for the Mosul airport undertaking as a part of Ankara’s broader agenda to extend its affect over Iraq. Turkey, the most important donor with its $5 billion mortgage pledge at the 2018 convention, was planning to play a serious function in Iraq’s reconstruction course of by a number of initiatives comparable to renovation of the Mosul and Kirkuk airports, a second crossing between the 2 nations by Ninevah province (the place Mosul is the capital), a 570-kilometer-long (355-mile) railroad line linking this crossing to Mosul and Baghdad and the modernization of irrigation infrastructure. The man who was Iraq’s prime minister then, Haider al-Abadi, was additionally on board with many of those proposals. Yet none of those plans had been realized on account of most nations’ failure to ship on their mortgage guarantees and the political instability that engulfed Baghdad. 

There are power disagreements between the 2 capitals comparable to water-sharing points and Ankara’s overt assist to Iraqi Sunnis. Further elevating eyebrows in Baghdad had been Turkey’s refusal to withdraw its navy forces from the Bashiqa air base near Mosul and the growth of Turkish navy operations in opposition to Kurdish militants in northern Iraq to focus on Kurdistan Workers Party bases in Sinjar and Makhmour in Ninevah.

Although the Kadhimi authorities — trapped between Iran and the United States — is keen to increase its relations with Turkey, the steadiness of energy in Baghdad makes issues more durable for Ankara and the Kadhimi authorities. 

Furthermore, Ankara is searching for to show Mosul and Ninevah right into a regional hub to hyperlink the 2 nations by land and air and with oil pipelines. Turkey’s proposal to open a second border crossing by Ninevah goals to arrange an alternate commerce route between Turkey and Iraq, bypassing the Kurdistan Regional Government. Kadhimi, in flip, is making an attempt to keep away from any steps that will hamper the curiosity of the Kurdistan Regional Government at a time when he’s making an attempt to fix ties between Erbil and Baghdad. Turkey’s second border crossing plan can also be geared toward establishing a buffer zone between Syria’s areas managed by the Kurdish teams and the PKK militants primarily based in northern Iraq. 

Turkey, in the meantime, believes that the French authorities has been influential within the Iraqi officers’ determination to present the undertaking to a French agency as a part of France’s efforts to increase the ability battle between Ankara and Paris to Iraq. The Turkish facet has reportedly conveyed these issues to the Iraqis, however the determination on the airport undertaking signifies that the adversarial impression of Turkey’s regional insurance policies, together with Iraq’s personal financial pursuits, performed a task in stopping Turkey from successful the airport bid.

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