Iraq Shiite leader greeted warmly

Iraq Shiite leader greeted warmly

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Iraq Shiite leader greeted warmly

Ammar al-Hakim (L) gets a warm welcome from Minister Davutoğlu in Ankara. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

While tension between Turkey and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki escalates, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu praised Iraqi Shiite leader Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, as being “very special” for Turkey and a “wise man,” whose leadership would be crucial in overcoming the sectarian conflict in Iraq.

“Al-Hakim is among the wise men not only of Iraq, but of the region,” Davutoğlu said yesterday, speaking in a joint press conference with the Iraqi Shiite leader.

At a critical time in Iraq, holding talks with al-Hakim in Ankara was considered very important by Turkey, Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkey and al-Hakim shared the same vision on the process of change in Iraq.

“We agree with al-Hakim that all sides involved must come shoulder to shoulder, so that there is no ethnic or sectarian polarization in the region,” Davutoğlu said.

The minister said al-Hakim came from an intellectual tradition and his family had given many martyrs in the fight for freedom in Iraq. Davutoğlu also said the establishment of a new and strong Iraq by Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens would be the harbinger of great days to come for the whole region.

Turkish officials commented privately that al-Hakim was the closest Shiite leader to Turkey and hinted Ankara would like to see him in a more influential political role in Iraq.

The Iraqi Shiite leader urged the Sunni Iraqiya bloc to end its boycott of Parliament and demanded support for a national conference in Iraq, stressing that an administration run by members of only one sect was impossible. “I want to invite Iraqiya to return and take its place in Parliament,” al-Hakim said. “We will examine their just demands and do whatever is necessary.”

Elaborating on the conflict in Syria, al-Hakim voiced support for “the Syrian people’s rightful demands” and urged for a peaceful solution that “should come from within Syria.”

Al-Hakim also met with President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday.
A political battle in Iraq erupted last month when the Shiite-led government issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Al-Maliki and Turkey came to loggerheads over Baghdad’s claim that Ankara was intervening in internal Iraqi affairs.

Last week, the leader of the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, Ayad Allawi, accused al-Maliki, a Shiite, of unfairly targeting Sunni officials and deliberately triggering a political crisis that was tearing Iraq apart. Allawi, who is a Shiite, said Iraq needed a new prime minister or new elections to prevent the country from disintegrating along sectarian lines.

Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Gafur al-Samarraie, the head of Sunni Endowment, also visited Ankara yesterday and met with his Turkish counterpart Mehmet Görmez. Al-Samarraie mentioned sectarian problems in Iraq and told reporters he had visited Turkey in order to discuss those problems.

Meanwhile, leaders of Iraq’s Sunni-backed Iraqiya political bloc planned to neet yesterday to decide whether to continue its boycott of parliament or escalate its protest by leaving the government, before al-Hakim’s statements, Reuters reported.