Erdogan criticizes Iraqi PM's "self-centered" behavior
Published Friday, April 20, 2012
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his Iraqi counterpart Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday of fanning tensions between Iraq's Shia, Sunnis and Kurds through his "self-centered" ways and behavior toward coalition partners.
Erdogan made the blunt comments after a meeting in Istanbul with Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, who has cultivated strong relations with Ankara.
"The developments in Iraq are not good signs, especially the current prime minister's behavior towards his coalition partners," Erdogan told a news conference, according to the Hurriyet newspaper website.
"His self-centered ways...are seriously disturbing Shia groups, Barzani and Iraqi groups," Erdogan said, adding that he had discussed these issues with the Iraqi Kurdish leader.
During his visit to Istanbul, Barzani had also been expected to meet fugitive Iraqi deputy president Tariq Hashemi, who has been accused of running death squads. The meeting could not be confirmed.
Tensions flared in Iraq after Maliki's government ordered Hashemi's arrest in December, raising fears of political instability in a country trying to assert itself as a sovereign state following nearly a decade of US occupation.
Turkey has been accused of playing a negative role in Iraq's internal affairs, fueling divisions by establishing warmer ties with Sunni and Kurdish figures in a bid to isolate Shia leaders.
Erdogan was speaking before leaving for Doha for talks with Qatari leaders that will focus on the crisis in Syria. Turkey and Qatar have been at the forefront of international calls for the ouster of President Bashar Assad.
But Turkey is worried that the violence in Syria and growing tensions in Iraq could lead to a wider conflict that might spill over into Turkish territory, while Qatar has taken a more hardline approach, insisting on arming Syrian rebels in the hope of plunging the country into civil war.
Maliki's government warned Erdogan against interfering in Iraq's internal affairs after he made similar remarks in January.
Erdogan also said he had discussed with Barzani the long running separatist insurgency being waged by the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey.
PKK fighters operate from bases in northern Iraq, but Barzani assured Erdogan that his government shared Erdogan's desire for an end to the conflict.
"They were particularly disturbed by this issue and it's not possible for them to approve of the terrorist organization," Erdogan said.
Iraq is Turkey's second largest trading partner after Germany, with trade reaching US$12 billion last year, more than half of which was with the Kurdistan region.