Turkey, Iraq eye closer cooperation on Syria as relations thaw
* Syria spillover poses common threat
* Relations strained over Kurdistan
* Two nations agree closer cooperation
By Humeyra Pamuk and Tulay Karadeniz
ANKARA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Turkey and Iraq, both concerned by the rise of al Qaeda in Syria, said on Friday their strained relations were improving and they would cooperate more closely to limit the spillover from Syria's civil war.
The two countries' dealings have been tense in recent years, not least because of Turkey's deepening ties with northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, locked in a dispute with the federal government over oil and land rights.
"Over the past two years our relations have gone through a bit of a problematic time," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu during a visit to Ankara.
"But the time has come for us to close this page and open a new one. Even though we still have certain disagreements, we don't have any problems that are not solvable."
The war in Syria, which borders both Turkey and Iraq, has drawn Sunni Islamists from across the region and beyond into battle against President Bashar al-Assad's government and has nourished the revival of al Qaeda in Iraq.
Al Qaeda's Syrian and Iraqi wings merged this year to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has mounted attacks in Syria and Iraq and has taken territory in northern Syria close to the border with Turkey in recent weeks.
Davutoglu said Syria had dominated the discussions with Zebari and the two had agreed on a formal mechanism for more intensive talks between their governments.
"We are the two countries that are the most deeply affected by developments in Syria," Davutoglu said.
He will visit Baghdad in the first half of November, his first visit to the Iraqi capital since March 2011. Asked if Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki planned to visit Turkey, Zebari said he hoped relations would continue on a more senior level but he gave no date for any visit.
Iraq has been particularly angered by Turkey's involvement in the autonomous Kurdistan region's oil and gas industry.
Another source of tension has been the presence in Turkey of fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, sentenced to death in Baghdad on charges of running death squads.
Hashemi, a Sunni who fled to Turkey last year, has denied the charges nd accused Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, of mounting a political witch-hunt against Sunni opponents.
(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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