Cairo, Asharq Al-awsat-In an interview with ”Asharq al-Awsat”, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari expressed his concerns over the Arab fighters who continue to enter Iraq through its border with Syria, and that Damascus is yet to show its "political will" to stop this flow.
Q) Do you expect that the anticipated Arab summit will provide assurance that will enable Iraq to emerge from its present situation?
A) This has long been our wish and we have consistently demanded that there should be an effective Arab presence in Iraq and that the Arab countries should have direct interaction with developments of Iraq”s political situation. This, however, is yet to happen.
Q) What do you seek to achieve from this summit?
A) I will request that action rather than words are what come of the resolutions that are agreed upon. The phenomenon of terror that is coming from abroad is the most important challenge facing Iraq at present, and the summit must take a clear stand on this without looking for justifications and excuses. We must name things by what they are because all that which is happening in Iraq and what has happened in Sharm al-Sheikh and London is terrorism. This does not need explanation or interpretation. It is the same with the diplomats who had come to establish ties with us. Furthermore, we also need political, economic, and cultural cooperation.
Q) What measures do you intend to take to safeguard the diplomatic missions?
A) We have permanent security measures for protecting the diplomatic missions and these include the police force and patrols deployed around the embassies and the diplomats” residences. We proposed to the embassies to deploy a force that accompanies the diplomats on their journeys and to provide those who need to travel frequently with an emergency hotline number. However, as we can see, there is no guarantee of security. The targeting of diplomats is continuing by dissidents and Ba”thist groups, therefore both caution and vigilance are needed. Presently, we are considering setting up a diplomatic quarter for the embassies that will have its own protection, as we realize that the aim of targeting the diplomatic missions is to sever Iraq”s relations with both Arab and non-Arab countries.
Q) Is it not now obvious that no Arab country is likely to send any diplomats to Iraq after the killing of the Egyptian diplomatic mission chief and the two Algerian diplomats?
A) The best way to respond to the terrorists is not to yield to their blackmail. To give in to them will encourage them to carry out more operations. We believe that the issue can be dealt with by continuing to send diplomats to Iraq.
Q) Do you support having the United Nations safeguard the diplomatic missions?
A) The United Nations itself is also targeted and is finding it difficult to provide protection and security to its centers and envoys, therefore how can it provide protection and security to others?
Q) Has the situation improved regarding controlling the borders and preventing the infiltrators, particularly after the Istanbul conference?
A) The majority of the countries re-committed themselves to our issue but we need more, in particular, we need the political will of controlling security and not allowing the infiltrations to occur. There will be no security on the borders without this.
Q) Why do you continue to accuse Syria of not controlling the border? A) It is not merely an accusation. We say the same thing in Damascus, New York, Brussels, and Cairo. There is no cooperation in security because of the absence of the political will. We are convinced of this. Nevertheless, talks continue with our Syrian brothers. We sent a delegation to Damascus headed by the foreign ministry”s undersecretary to discuss the issue of restoring diplomatic relations. We explained to the Syrians that the Iraqi Government was not satisfied with the low level of cooperation. Everyday, more and more Arab elements are arrested who come to Iraq to fight and this confirms that the main outlet for infiltration is the border with Syria.
Q) Is there tension then between Iraq and Syria?
A) We were hoping to have better relations in all fields. We are eager to have strong and close relations with Syria but we have always maintained that that any country which believes it can exploit the internal difficulties of Iraq is making a fatal mistake. These are short-term "benefits" that they experience, and it is in their interest that they help to prevent terror in Iraq so that terror does not further spread to their lands.
Q) Is Iran responsive about securing the border?
A) Yes, Iran has responded positively. It respects the Iraqi Government and its institutions. The Iranian foreign minister made an official visit to Iraq and met the Iraqi leaders whereas the Arab foreign ministers are avoiding visiting us.
Q) When will Iraqi Ambassador Safia Al-Souhail take up her post in
A) This issue is still being discussed with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the decision will be made as soon as possible.