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Fugitive VP al-Hashemi attacks al-Maliki over Iran influence in Iraq | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Fugitive Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who is currently residing in Istanbul, has strongly denied that Ankara is “interfering” in Iraqi affairs. Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone, al-Hashemi said “Turkey is not interfering in Iraqi internal affairs. I say this as a matter of fairness and history, for the Turkish government refused to get involved in any internal Iraqi issue and it has been careful to remain the same distance from all Iraqi political factions and politicians.”

Al-Hashemi, who is presently visiting Doha, stressed that “if the Turkish government were interfering in Iraqi internal affairs then it would have announced its support for the position of the Iraqiya bloc, which won the elections, however the Turkish brothers told us: this is an internal matter, and we advise you to participate in a national partnership government headed by al-Maliki, but that is up to you.”

He added “[Turkish Prime Minsiter] Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued his call – during the Justice and Development Party conference – to all Iraqi parties without exception, as well as to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Mailki.”

The Iraqi Vice President asserted that “the role of the brothers in the Turkish government is to express their views and foster rapprochement between the Iraqi political blocs to heal the rift in the political process.”

Al-Hashemi was responding to a statement made by Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki in which he said that he wants to see the tense relationship between Baghdad and Ankara improve, but warned Turkey against “interfering” in Iraqi affairs.

The latest incident in the deteriorating relationship between Iraq and Turkey saw Iraqi authorities deny entry to a plane carrying Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz en route to Erbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated after Ankara took the decision to host Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who has been sentenced to death in Baghdad on charges of running death squads. In addition to this, al-Maliki is reportedly angry with Turkey’s move to foster closer ties with Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Government, which is presently in a dispute with the Iraqi federal government over oil and land rights.

Al-Maliki lately extended an olive branch to Erdogan, telling Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper that “despite all the problems, we want good dialogue with Turkey. I am extending an olive branch from here. Security, oil, trade and culture; we are ready and want to work with you in every field”. However he added “do not interfere in Iraq’s politics and domestic affairs.”

Al-Hashemi fled to Turkey earlier this year when Iraqi authorities sought to arrest him. The fugitive Iraqi Vice President, a Sunni, has strongly denied all charges against him and accused al-Maliki, a Shiite, of seeking to incite sectarianism and monopolize power.

For its part, Ankara has said that it will not hand al-Hashemi over to Baghdad, saying that there is no truth in the accusations that have been made against him.

However the Iraqi Prime Minister, speaking to Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, viewed this stance as provocative, asking “what happens if I host PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Baghdad? How would you feel? Would Turkey and the Turkish people accept this?”

Al-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “al-Maliki is not talking about Iranian intervention in all Iraqi affairs, and we have not heard any response to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp [IRGC] commander Qassem Soleimani’s statement that Iran has more influence than America in Iraq and that Washington should negotiate with Tehran, not Baghdad, regarding the situation in Iraq.”

He added “al-Maliki, and those with him, did not show any shame regarding these statements, which are degrading to all of the Iraqi people.”

The fugitive Iraqi Vice President also stressed that “al-Maliki did not mention Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani visiting Najaf before visiting Baghdad, however he was furious when Turkish Foreign Minsitry Ahmet Davutoglu visited Erbdil, after obtaining an official entry visa from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry!”

As for al-Maliki’s complaints regarding Ankara’s failure to hand him over to Baghdad, al-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat “Firstly, Turkey is a country of institutions, and its judiciary is known for its integrity and independence, and they know that I am innocent, whilst they are also well aware of the manner that the Iraqi judiciary operates, unfortunately. In addition to this, al-Maliki was the one who sent me messages calling on me to leave Iraq, and I refused because I wanted to – and still want to – prove my innocence, whilst my presence in Turkey is temporary and I will return to my country soon, God willing.”