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Calls for my arrest “meaningless” – Al-Hashemi | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a senior member of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, confirmed that he intends to return to the Kurdistan Region after the end of his regional tour “which will include a number of friendly and sisterly states.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Doha yesterday, al-Hashemi stressed that “I am present here at the official invitation of our Qatari brothers” adding “tomorrow [Wednesday] I will be in Riyadh at the invitation of our brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

As for the motivations behind his visit, al-Hashemi said “this visit confirms the legitimacy of my position as Vice President of the Republic of Iraq, and I remain in my post, as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has stated on a number of occasions. This visit was also to follow-up on the relationship between Iraq and a number of friendly and sisterly Arab states in the region, and I will continue my tour where the priority will be Arab states, therefore tomorrow [Wednesday] I will be in Riyadh, whilst I will also visit Ankara, however the Arab States will be the priority.”

The Iraqi Vice President also confirmed that “these invitations to visit Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as other invitations from friendly and sisterly states were made some time ago, and they have to be met. I approached President Talabani and received his approval, whilst I also consulted with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani as I am his guest, and we reached an understanding that I would carry out this Arab and regional tour following the end of the Arab League summit that recently took place in Baghdad, so that this tour would not disturb the summit.”

Al-Hashemi also called for there to be “no misunderstandings about the motivations behind these visits to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as these visits have nothing to do with the crisis invented by al-Maliki following the Baghdad summit with Riyadh and Doha, and the impact of his attack on our brothers against the backdrop of their call to arm the Syrian opposition.”

The Iraqi Vice President also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “I discussed the issue of my leaving the Kurdistan Region with brother Barzani, and I appreciate what it means to be a guest [of Kurdistan], whilst at the same time carrying out my job as Vice President. I am aware of the sensitivities of my situation, and I do not want the brother Kurds to bear the consequences of my movements, but I found all the required support from my [Kurdish] brothers here who I extend my great thanks to for their hospitality and concern, and their position in understanding our cause.”

As for the statements made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and senior members of his State of Law coalition that al-Hashemi’s visit to Doha is within the context of him “fleeing” the arrest warrants that have been issued against him, al-Hashemi stressed “this is nothing more than a media campaign that aims to distort the image of my tour and its objectives. How can they describe my travel as ‘fleeing when I travelled publicly and in broad daylight? I am an employee of the Iraqi state at the rank of Vice President, and this is a sovereign and senior position, I publicly left the country in an official manner and with official approval from Erbil Airport – which is an Iraqi airport – landing at Doha airport, indeed my office issued an official statement saying that I would be carrying out this Arab and regional tour and that I will return to my residence in Kurdistan region. I will indeed return, so how can the Iraqi government describe this as ‘fleeing?”

He also expressed his belief that “everything that was issued by the Iraqi government was to provoke me to flee and not return.”

Al-Hashemi has been accused by Baghdad authorities of running death squads against Shiite pilgrims, government officials and security forces.

As for Baghdad calling for Doha to handover the Iraqi Vice President, al-Hashemi said “these calls are meaningless and ridiculous, for I did not just fall from the moon and land in Doha, I was in Kurdistan and I will return there. How can the Iraqi brothers call on our Qatari brothers or Interpol to arrest the Vice President of Iraq? In accordance with Article 93 of the Iraqi constitution, I enjoy immunity and no judicial body can investigate at a case involving me, with the exception of the [Iraqi] Constitutional Court.”

Al-Hashemi described al-Maliki’s pursuit of him as “sectarian political targeting… this is not just a targeting of myself, but also a targeting of the Arab Sunni component [of Iraqi society] and anybody who is working to achieve the national project. This is why al-Maliki has targeted me and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, who is also a senior member of the Iraqiya bloc.”

Al-Hashemi stressed that “al-Maliki does not know how to live except in the midst of crises, and therefore creates domestic and foreign crises.”

Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Attiyah confirmed that Doha was meeting al-Hashemi in his position as Iraqi Vice President, adding that al-Hashemi could not be extradited to Iraq because no court judgment has been issued against him. He said “Mr. Hashemi came in his capacity as vice president, and he continues to occupy this post, and has not been sentenced or stripped of his title.” The Qatari Foreign Minister added “there are also diplomatic customs and criteria that says that Tariq al-Hashemi has immunity and therefore Qatar, of course, would never do such a thing against him.”