Erdogan slams Iran for supporting Maliki government
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized Iran's support of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, contrary to the aspirations of a large coalition comprising Kurdish, Turkmen and other Shiite groups in Iraq to unseat Maliki Today`s Zaman reported
In his televised remarks to Turkey's A Haber news channel on Sunday, Erdogan claimed that Maliki would not behave "as comfortably as he did before" because of such initiatives from the opposition, while maintaining that Maliki enjoys a good level of support from Iranin clinging to power.
"It is not possible to accept Iran's stance. We conveyed this to them at the highest level of talks. We said to them, 'Look, this has been a source of disturbance in the region'," Erdogan stated.
In June, an initiative by Iraqi politicians to unseat Maliki on the basis of his failure to abide by the clear principles of the Iraqi constitution that envisaged a balance of power between the different sects and ethnicities in Iraq was unsuccessful due to a failure to collect enough votes. The campaign was also supported by Massoud Barzani, the leader of Iraq's autonomous region, and influential Shiite clerics Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim. Barzani has had long running disputes with the central Iraqi government on territory and the sharing of oil revenues.
Erdoğan further claimed that not defending the same positions with its southeastern neighbor was only playing into the hand of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the region. "Even though we should be the countries that share the same values, for us to be in such rigor only makes the terrorist organization more powerful. This leads us to approach each other with suspicion," Erdogan stated.
Erdogan also criticized the Maliki-led government on its discriminatory stance against Turkish officials after new tensions flared between Iraq and Turkey over Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's recent surprise visit to the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by both the central Iraqi government and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region.
"Do Iranian politicians coming to Iraq give you [the Iraqi government] the address of their destinations? They don't. You have your local government there and you have a minister [Davutoglu] who has a red passport. While he is visiting there, he could go to Kirkuk, which is 40 km away. We have our kin there," Erdogan commented.
Davutoglu had travelled to Kirkuk last week after visiting the regional president in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The visit was the first Turkish foreign ministerial visit to Kirkuk since 1937, and Davutoglu had made supportive speeches on maintaining peace in the city last week.
But Iraq's foreign ministry accused Turkey of violating its constitution with the visit, saying that Davutoğlu had neither asked for nor obtained permission to enter Kirkuk. Following the incident, a junior minister at Iraq's foreign ministry had handed Turkey's chargé d'affaires a strongly-worded statement. In turn, Turkey's foreign ministry immediately summoned Iraq's Ambassador in Ankara to protest against Baghdad's stance after Davutoglu's visit. In talks with the Iraqi envoy, foreign ministry officials explained that Turkey is taking every step openly and has no hidden agenda.
Erdogan accused the Iraqi central government authorities of being "clumsy" in politics. "If you send [us] a note, Turkey will also return a note to your ambassador. While trying to develop positive relations with me on the one hand, [they] send a note to my ambassador, making for clumsy politics," the prime minister remarked.
Meanwhile, the Barzani-led Iraqi Kurdistan government has supported Turkey over the tit-for-that exchange of notes between the two countries. In a statement released on Monday, Barzani's office claimed that the Turkish foreign minister had obtained a visa from the Turkish Embassy in Iraq before the visit, acquiring a legal right to enter the disputed city.
The statement further read that the aim of the Kirkuk visit was to show that Turkey is on equally good terms with all circles in Iraq, rather than being a negative attempt against Iraq's sovereignty.
Obama respectful to Turkey, Erdogan claims
The prime minister has also dismissed opposition criticism of a White House photo showing President Barack Obama holding a baseball bat during a telephone conversation with the leader.
Turkish opposition this week picked the photo apart, claiming the picture was disrespectful. Erdogan told that Obama is "a friend who never falls short of respect or politeness."
'Assad coming closer to end by the day'
Erdogan also claimed that "I believe that the end of [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad is coming closer by the day," pointing to the recent claims in the country that the regime forces embattlement in the trade center of Aleppo. He explained an important part of the city is currently under the control of opposition forces, signaling "the end" for the Assad regime.
"What Aleppo means for Syria is the same as what İstanbul means for Turkey," Erdogan stated.