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Iraqi FM Zebari Talks with Asharq Al-Awsat - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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(Q) What is the Iraqi Government”s position concerning the recent statements of the Arab League”s secretary general? Is there an Iraqi policy that will be taken toward the League in light of these and other statements?

(A) The Iraqi Government has expressed its dissatisfaction with the statements of Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa because of their nature and timing too, especially as the Iraqi leadership does not intend to obliterate Iraq”s Arab or Islamic identity in any way whatsoever. Iraq”s fate is to live in and merge with its Arab and Islamic environment. However, these statements, which caused very negative reactions inside the Iraqi street, have been considered some kind of interference in an Iraqi internal affair at an inappropriate time.

On the other hand, Iraq”s Government and people reproach the Arab League and some Arab countries strongly for ignoring what Iraq has been going through since the fall of Saddam”s regime despite our constant appeals to the League over two successive years to intervene and get to know the Iraqi issue at close hand. But the Arab League did not even send a legal or constitutional expert to help the Iraqis write their constitution.

(Q) What will Iraq do if the Arab League does go ahead and carry out its threat to suspend its membership or terminate it?

(A) We are passionate about Iraq”s membership in the Arab League because it is one of its founders and one of its active members. As to the League”s decision to suspend Iraq”s membership, we believe that such a decision will have to be made by all the Arab countries and is not an individual one by Amr Musa or anyone else.

(Q) What foreign policy will Iraq adopt with Syria and Iran if they fail to respond to the Iraqi Government”s appeals to stop the terrorists” infiltrations into Iraq?

(A) The Iraqi Government is really suffering from the problem of the neighboring countries” leniency in preventing the terrorists from crossing into Iraq. We have expressed repeatedly our dissatisfaction with the absence of a political will on the Syrian Government”s part for constructive security cooperation with the Iraqi Government, either to uproot the remnants of the former regime who are in its territories or prevent the entry of terrorist infiltrators. Despite all our sufferings with Syria, the Iraqi-Syrian dialogue to try to persuade Syria to activate its security policy on the border between the two countries has not stopped. The Iraqi Government still has the political alternatives should Syria fail to respond to the Iraqi appeals and which we hope we will not be forced to resort to them at any time. As to Iran, the Iraqi Government considers that country”s political stand better. They have a more positive approach toward the political situation in Iraq and have proved on several occasions their intentions to help the Iraqi Government tighten its security control. There are mechanisms and work agendas and these were discussed with the Iranian side recently.

(Q) How does Iraq rate its relations with its other neighbors at present?

(A) Our relations are healthy and good with all neighboring countries, including Syria despite its policy toward the new Iraq. We in Iraq are going through a transitional period where we are practicing democracy for the first time and believe our success in crossing this stage is linked to the level of our good relations with the neighboring countries. Regarding Iran and Turkey, we have diplomatic representation and several agreements in the various security and services fields were signed with these two countries. Our relations with the neighboring Arab countries are more than good and we are constantly seeking contacts with them at all levels. The recent border crisis with Kuwait is the best evidence of the policy of coordination that the Iraqi Government follows with its various neighbors. This coordination was demonstrated by the decision of the two countries” leaders during my visit to Kuwait to establish joint technical committees to look into the implications of this crisis.

(Q) What is the nature of these committees” work? Are there guarantees that Iraq can give to ensure that a similar crisis will not recur?

(A) The main purpose of these committees is to clarify the picture to the Iraqi people, namely, that the two countries are committed to the UN resolutions on their border demarcation, that there have been no violations of it either from the Kuwaiti side or the Iraqi one, and that the border fence that Kuwait has started building is in Iraq”s interest before being in Kuwait”s. It will prevent the danger of the infiltrators who harbor ill will against the two countries.

(Q) Iraq recently said it was reopening its embassies in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Has an official time been set for these embassies to start operating normally?

(A) We decided to reopen our embassies in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in stages and without media commotion. Repairs of our embassy in Riyadh and our consulate in Jeddah have in fact been completed and work continues in our embassy building in Kuwait. Work in our embassy in Saudi Arabia will start during the next month at most, especially as we are in dire need for the return of the Iraqi diplomatic representation inside Saudi Arabia.

(Q) When will the Kuwaiti and Saudi political representation inside Iraq return? Does the Iraqi Government have a security strategy for protecting the diplomatic missions following what happened to the Egyptian and Algerian ambassadors?

(A) The Kuwaiti and Saudi Governments promised to reopen their embassies in Iraq when the security conditions permit this and they appealed to Iraq to take the first step and reopen its embassies in these two countries as soon as possible. Regarding the attacks on some diplomatic missions in Iraq, the government has taken extensive security measures to protect them. However, the problem with the diplomatic missions is that there is not a diplomatic quarter in Baghdad where all the embassies and houses of their staff are located, which makes it possible to erect a tight protection cordon around it. This is making the work of the security forces and the protection in various neighborhoods difficult.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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