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Relations with Syria Continue to Improve- Iraqi Official | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- At a time when the Iraqi Government stated that relations with Syria will witness progress within the next few days, the crisis to form the next Iraqi government continues. Seven months after the legislative elections, which were held on 7 March, negotiations between the political parties have faltered and have thus far failed to reach a consensus on the make up of the next Iraqi government.

Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the Iraqi Government and member of the State of Law Coalition [SLC] led by Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister whose term has expired, said that the relations between Iraq and Syria will witness great progress within the next few days. In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that “Syria is now viewing the subject for forming the government in the country as an Iraqi affair, and that the Iraqis alone are the ones concerned with forming it.” He added that “the Syrian viewpoint says that forming the new government would be the result of an exclusively Iraqi effort.”

On the impact of the foreign role in forming the government, Al-Dabbagh said that “the Syrian officials should understand the mechanism of forming the government in the country with emphasis that it should be through an Iraqi will.” He pointed out that “the foreign quarters should not influence the political parties in the country concerning forming the next cabinet, particularly since any interference would further complicate the situation.” He expected that “the Syrian stand toward Iraq would be good as long as Syria does not interfere in the details and mechanisms of forming the government. Based on this, I call on the countries of the region not to influence the formation of the government in the country.”

Relations between Baghdad and Damascus have deteriorated after Baghdad accused the Syrian regime of harboring elements and leaders of the disbanded Baath Party who were behind a series of bloody attacks that took place in the Iraqi capital.

Regarding Damascus’s opinion on Al-Maliki’s assumption of the post of prime minister for another term, Al-Dabbagh stressed: “This issue has not been discussed with the Syrians, particularly since this issue is not the responsibility of Syria to accept Al-Maliki or anyone else or vice versa.” He added: “the process of forming the government and selecting a prime minister is a purely national issue, therefore, we do not want to open the way for others, whether it is Syria or any other country, to express their views on the person who will head the government.”

Relations between Baghdad and Damascus have improved in the last dew days, particularly after the telephone contact made by Syrian Prime Minister Muhammad Naji Itri with his counterpart Al-Maliki early last week. Within the same context, informed sources, which refused to be identified, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Syrian Foreign Ministry is preparing to issue a statement in which it welcomes the recent Iraqi tendency toward Syria, particularly after the statements of the Iraqi Government spokesman (Al-Dabbagh) in which he pointed out the presence of mutual economic interests between Iraq and Syria.” The sources refused to elaborate further.

Al-Dabbagh said in press statements last Friday that “the Syrian-Iraqi relations are developing well and there are joint economic interests,” pointing out that the two sides “have signed a memorandum of understanding late last month concerning three pipelines to transport energy, two of which are for transporting crude oil to the Mediterranean and a third for transporting gas.”

Meanwhile, and on the level of the dialogues between the political blocs on forming the government, Shakir Kitab, member of the Al-Iraqiya list led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, said that all the negotiations between the political parties “have been a failure,” explaining to Asharq Al-Awsat that “all the negotiations between the political parties in the country have failed and all have reached a dead end.”

On the US pressures that aim at giving Al-Maliki the post of prime minister, Kitab said: “It seems that the Americans have interests with the SLC, led by Al-Maliki, since the latter built with them (the Americans) modern apparatuses, in addition to their engagement in a fight against some militias and terrorist organizations that achieved successes, which the United States does not want to waste in the next stage.” He added: “Probably, the United States needs to continue fighting these quarters in the next stage.”

Kitab has not ruled out the possibility that “some parties (he did not name) may resort to force in order to form the government, particularly if the negotiations fail between the two alliances (the Iraqi National Alliance [INA] and the SLC).”

Al-Iraqiya’s negotiations with the other blocs (the INA and the SLC) witnessed stages of progress and setbacks that have not led to any agreement, something that led observers to say that the negotiations between the other blocs and the Al-Iraqiya list were something like temporary rounds that aim at improving the negotiation terms between them and not to really reach agreement with the Al-Iraqiya list.

Meanwhile, INA member Muhammad Naji said that the National Alliance, which comprises of the lists of Al-Maliki and Al-Hakim, is serious about dealing with the file of electing a candidate for the post of the next prime minister from within the Alliance.

Al-Hakim’s alliance has nominated Vice President Adel Abdel-Mahdi, who is one of its leaders, for the post of prime minister, while Al-Maliki’s coalition insists on extending for Al-Maliki for another term. Najil told Asharq Al-Awsat that “as a National Alliance, we are serious about dealing with the file of electing a candidate to head the next government.”

Asked if the results of this mechanism led to the victory of the SLC’s candidate (Al-Maliki) on whom several forces that are part of Al-Hakim’s alliance are showing reservations, Naji said: “We will support Al-Maliki as we have done throughout the past stage but after an agreement is reached on refraining from returning to some issues that took place in the past stage, particularly reconsidering the process of making decisions in the government.” He stressed, at the same time, that “the SLC is prepared to give sufficient guarantees as soon as the INA accepts that Al-Maliki heads the next government whether these guarantees are in the form of signed papers or any other means.”