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Iraqi president's visit shows both sides' eagerness to ease tensions
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Close ties in entergy and economy fields

 At the invitation of his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived on Friday on a fence-mending mission to push for closer economic ties between the two countries, just one week after Ankara abruptly ended a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

The invitation for Talabani to visit Turkey was issued the very day Turkey launched its latest ground offensive, and while gun smoke was still drifting, the Iraqi president decided to set off for Ankara.

However, analysts said the visit came as no surprise in view of the close ties between the two countries in the fields of energy and economy.

Considering the importance of its energy and economic cooperation with Iraq, Turkey believes that it is in its best interests to improve ties with Iraq. The fact that Turkey buys oil from Iraq through a twin pipeline running from northern Iraq to a Turkish Mediterranean port is a case in point.

Turkey's Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said during Talabani's visit that the two sides discussed projects aimed at transporting Iraqi oil and natural gas to Turkey.

Iraq has also become an increasingly important market for Turkish products ranging from food to textiles.

Turkish Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen said in a speech to the visiting Iraqi delegation that bilateral trade was projected to reach 20 billion US dollars in two years' time, from more than 3.5 billion dollars in 2007 and 940 million dollars in 2003.

"Our aim is to sign a free trade accord with Iraq within a short period of time," he said.

Iraq, on the other hand, sees Ankara as an important partner in energy cooperation, post-war reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

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