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Economy precursor to Turkish-Kurd ties?

ERBIL, Iraq, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Growing economic ties between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan may be a sign of easing tensions, though political differences may continue, analysts say.

Trade in the region is increasing exponentially since the ouster of the Saddam Hussein regime, with some analysts predicting an increase of nearly 250 percent in the coming years.

This economic boom, however, may be more of a sign that Turkey is taking advantage of the post-Saddam era more than a willingness to embrace Kurdish leadership, a review by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting said Wednesday.

Beyond the estimated $3 billion in trade for consumer goods, the northern Kurdish regions of Iraq rely on Turkey for about 10 percent of their electricity.

"Turkey needs this business to try to increase prosperity in southeast Turkey, which (contains) some of the most impoverished regions in the country," said Fadi Hakura with the British Chatham House.

But some analysts say the commercial relationship is part of a broader effort by Ankara to increase its influence in the region, as Turkey has failed to take steps to recognize Kurdistan as a formal entity.

With coalition forces slowly making preparations for a withdrawal from Iraq, Turkey's position in the region is expected to grow.

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