BAGHDAD, (AFP) – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Friday urged a Syrian opposition delegation in Baghdad to learn from the experiences of Iraq, where a new political system was established during years of violence.
Maliki met with “a delegation of representatives of a number of Syrian opposition factions, headed by Dr Mahmud Daham al-Muslat, the head of the Syrian National Council foreign relations office in the US and Canada,” a statement on the Iraqi premier’s website said.
They discussed the developments in the Syria crisis and “ways to stop the bloodshed and find a basic political solution,” the statement said.
Maliki called for the delegation “to take advantage of the Iraqi experience in a period of change that took place in Iraq, whether in the failures that were faced, or the successes achieved.”
In the years since the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraq has struggled to establish a new political system, and has also contended with a wave of internecine violence that pitted Sunnis against Shiites and left tens of thousands dead.
Iraq has pointedly avoided calling for President Bashar al-Assad — who is facing an uprising against his rule — to step down, instead urging an end to violence by all parties.
More than 27,000 people have been killed in the deadly Syrian uprising that erupted in March last year, according to Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations puts the toll at 20,000.
If Assad is overthrown, Syria too will have to establish a new political system, and is also likely to face sectarian strife — opponents of Assad’s regime are primarily Sunni, while he belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.