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MIDEAST > Deal with Baghdad, not Arbil: Iraq PM to Turkey

BAGHDAD / ISTANBUL

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Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki slams Turkey’s recently growing ties with the KRG. AA Photo

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki slams Turkey’s recently growing ties with the KRG. AA Photo

If Turkey wants to mend its ties with Iraq and maintain good relations with the country, it must deal directly through Baghdad rather than undercutting its authority by pursuing relations directly with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said.

The central government in Iraq rejects Turkey’s efforts to treat the KRG “as if it is an independent state,” al-Maliki said in a statement Aug. 11. If Turkey wants to maintain good regional relations it must do so through Iraq, al-Maliki said, according to Associated Press.

Al-Maliki’s remarks came after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made a side trip to the disputed Iraqi city of Kirkuk without first informing Baghdad. The visit incensed Iraqi authorities and brought already-chilly ties between Baghdad and Ankara to a new low. In July, a Kurdish official said the region had begun to export oil to Turkey without Baghdad’s permission, a move which the Iraqi central government deemed “illegal.”

Baghdad and Arbil are currently at odds over issues including the KRG’s refusal to seek approval from the central government for oil contracts it has awarded to foreign firms, as well as over a swathe of disputed territory in northern Iraq.

Joint position against sectarian conflicts

Turkey has for months hosted Iraq’s fugitive Sunni Arab vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, who is wanted on charges of running a death squad and is being tried in absentia. Al-Hashemi was granted a residence permit by Turkish authorities to avoid visa problems during his trips.

Davutoğlu met with representatives of Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni Muslims over a fast-breaking meal in Istanbul on Aug. 11. All sides agreed to take a joint position against the sectarian tension present in the region.

“We have agreed that Shiite and Sunni religious scholars take a joint position against sectarian tensions that some are trying to fuel in the Middle East,” Davutoğlu told reporters after his meeting with the chairman of the Sunni Endowment, Sheik Ahmed Abdul Ghafoor, and the chairman of the Shiite Endowment, Salih Haidari, Anatolia news agency reported.

August/13/2012

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