Iraqi Parliament Speaker al-Nujaifi (C) speaks as Iraqi radical Shiite Muslim cleric al-Sadr (R) listens during a press conference in the southern holy city of Najaf. AFP PhotoThe relations between Turkey and Iraq are experiencing difficulties and the most difficult part of this period is when “sectarian games are played,” Shiite Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr said. Al-Sadr hosted Selahattin Özgündüz, Turkish Caferi leader, and a delegate accompanying him in Najaf.
“The most difficult phase of Turkey-Iraqi ties is when sectarian games are played. The wrong perspective is to see Iraq as only a Shiite country and Turkey as a Sunni country,” al-Sadr said, adding that Iraq should be a country of all sects, religions and races. “Like in Turkey, Turkey belongs to all religions, sects, and races.” Sadr also thanked Özgündüz for his efforts on the Day of Aşura.
Upon Özgündüz’s remarks that they didn’t want to see Kirkuk tied to a Kurdish administration and they believed they had enough power to prevent it from happening, al-Sadr said: “Kirkuk is neither Shiite, Sunni nor Kurdish. It belongs to Iraq.”
The Shiite leader also said it was not acceptable to burn the flag of a Muslim nation after around 200 protesters demanding that Ankara extradite Iraq’s fugitive vice president burned the Turkish flag May 19 at a demonstration near the Turkish Consulate General in Basra. Al-Sadr called on neighboring and Muslim countries to keep ties at a good level.
On the crisis with Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, al-Sadr said the tension was a result of political disputes and advised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government not to raise the tension. “We advise al-Maliki not to strain ties with Turkey any more,” al-Sadr said, adding that all situations concerning al-Maliki raised the sectarian crisis in the country.
The al-Hashemi crisis engulfed Iraq after al-Maliki’s government issued an arrest warrant for the country’s Sunni vice president in December. Al-Sadr also said they were mediating between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government to ease the ongoing crisis and added that the Kurdish administration did not want to split from Iraq.
Published in Hürriyet Daily News