Iraqi Shiite leader visits Turkey amid high tension

Iraqi Shiite leader visits Turkey amid high tension

Iraqi Shiite leader visits Turkey amid high tension

Ammar al-Hakim gives a speech in Baghdad in this file photo. Al-Hakim, a known political ally of the Iraqi PM, visits Ankara. REUTERS photo

Ammar al-Hakim, leader the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is visiting Ankara amid escalating tension between Turkey and Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Hakim’s visit came a day after al-Maliki accused his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of provocation after he said Ankara would not stand by if Iraq were dragged into sectarian conflict.

Al-Hakim is not visiting Turkey to mediate between al-Maliki and the Turkish government, Turkish sources told the Hürriyet Daily News. A member of one of the leading Shiite clerical families in Iraq, al-Hakim is a known political ally of the Iraqi prime minister. Al-Hakim will have discussions with President Abdullah Gül, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu today. Talks with al-Hakim are part of Turkey’s dialogue with Iraqi political parties, the sources said.

“All Iraqis are proud of belonging to their country and no other. Erdoğan has provoked all Iraqis with his comments, particularly those he believes he is defending,” al-Maliki said in a statement released by his office in a clear allusion to Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority.

“Sunni and Shiite Iraqis are brothers and do not need anyone claiming to defend them against each other,” he said. Erdoğan had warned al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government that Ankara would have to take action if it sparked a sectarian war.

Hashemi may be handed over to Baghdad soon

Ties between Baghdad and Ankara have been strained by Turkey’s position on the Shiite-led government’s move to arrest Sunni Tariq al-Hashemi, a measure triggering political turmoil and stirring more sectarian tensions. Iraqi Vice President al-Hashemi, currently in hiding through the Regional Kurdish Administration, will be handed over to the central government of Iraq to be tried in Baghdad next month, a top Iraqi official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

“We are conducting negotiations with the Kurdistan Regional Government for the fair trial of Tariq al-Hashemi,” said Ali Muhsin al-Allaq, secretary general of Iraq’s Cabinet. “The Kurdistan government will hand over al-Hashemi to Baghdad next month, perhaps even sooner than that,” he said, adding that talks between the parties had matured enough to yield a solution.

“We are not asking Turkey to mediate between the Kurdistan government and Baghdad,” al-Allaq said. “Turkey would also not be pleased if some another country intervenes with Turkey’s internal problems.” The central government understood the Kurdish government’s concerns in relation to “a fair trial” of al-Hashemi, al-Allaq said, adding that the central government worked on the last details to ensure al-Hashemi would be safe in Baghdad. “If he is guilty or not, he should be tried in Baghdad in a fair and transparent way,” al-Allaq said. “The constitution of Iraq does not allow another country to intervene with our politics,” said al-Allaq, supporting al-Maliki’s recent statement warning Turkey it would suffer if its interventions in Iraq sparked conflict in the Middle East.

“Iraq and Turkey’s relations have not yet been shaken. We should take it as the opinion of the politicians,” al-Allaq said, adding that rising tensions between Ankara and Baghdad were “temporary.”
“Sometimes the internal problem of the country can be interpreted in a different way by other countries,” he said. The central government remained capable of settling political unrest between Iraq’s central government and the Regional Kurdish Administration, he said.

“I believe the recent statements by the politicians will not affect relations between Iraq and Turkey,” he said, noting the increasing bilateral trade and investments between Turkey and Iraq. “We still need Turkey to be with us,” al-Allaq added. Ankara-Baghdad ties have become more deeply embroiled recently as both Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Turkey’s Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan visited Arbil this month without visiting Baghdad.