London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is the first non-Arab to chair an Arab League summit since 1964, when the first Arab summit was held in Cairo and chaired by then Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with a number of different Iraqi political leaders, from various religious, ethnic and sectarian political trends and parties from all across Iraq, who confirmed that “an Iraqi Kurdish politician representing Iraq at the Arab League Summit represents a positive message, and reflects the genuine new reality in Iraq.”
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, who is also a senior member of the Iyad Allawi-led Iraqiya bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “President Jalal Talabani is an Iraqi citizen and this is the only thing that matters, regardless of his ethnicity. Our Kurdish brothers form an essential component of our people, and the Iraqi constitution does not differentiate between one Iraqi and another…regardless of ethnicity, or religion, or sect.”
He added “the fact that President Talabani is a Kurd, and that he will chair the Arab League summit, reflects the strength of Iraq and the Iraqi people as well as the firmness of Iraqi national unity…between the Arabs and the other ethnic groups that make up Iraq.
The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister also asserted that Talabani’s chairing of the Baghdad summit would serve to “reassure the Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrians that Iraq is for everybody reflecting a positive image to our Arab brothers that this is the new Iraq.”
For his part, Kurdistan Region Minister of Culture and Youth, Kawa Shaker, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “President Talabani is a proven Iraqi citizen, as can be seen by his long years of sincere political work and his commitment to Iraqi issues, and the unity of a democratic and federal Iraq, via his commitment to implementing the constitution.”
He added that “President Talabani – an Iraqi Kurd – being the president of Iraq and chairing the Arab League summit, demonstrates to the world the new situation in Iraq, namely that this is a pluralistic country where there is no presence for an over-centralized state, and that any marginalization or non-involvement of others in decision making will be like a ticking time bomb that will explode the general situation and create problems for this new state.”
Whilst the official spokesman for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq [ISCI] Hamid Muali, said that “Mr. Jalal Talabani is an elected president by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, and we view him solely in this manner rather than merely as an Iraqi Kurd, and this is also regardless of whether he is a Sunni or Shiite.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “a well-known Kurdish Iraq political figure like Mr. Talabani chairing the Arab League summit gives this summit a new flavor whilst also serving as a message that the new Iraq respects all ethnicities, religions and sects; this is a strong message that grants a positive understanding of Iraq and the Iraqi people.”
Ayden Marouf, a member of the Iraqi Turkmen Front’s Executive Bureau, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “we, as an Iraqi Turkmen front, view the issue of Mr. Jalal Talabani chairing the Arab League summit as being completely normal, for he is the president of Iraq which is hosting the summit, and so constitutionally the president must chair the summit.”
He added that “President Talabani is an Iraqi citizen, regardless of his ethnicity, religion, or political views…he is the elected president of Iraq, by the people of Iraq, and this is the new Iraq, and so it would not be out of the question to see a Turkmen or Arab president, or a Muslim or Christian president.”
The leader of Iraq’s Assyrian Democratic Movement, MP Youadem Kana, said that “the Arab League summit being chaired by an Iraqi Kurdish political figure like Presidnet Talabani sends a message to others about the nature of Iraq today, and the importance of respecting pluralism in our society” adding “this is the makeup of the Iraqi people.”
Kana stressed that “the president [of Iraq] must be an Iraqi citizen, and by chance the current president also happens to be a Kurd…this is the nature of Iraq.”