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 Turkey urges US to pull the break on Maliki, prevent partition in Iraq

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Turkey urges US to pull the break on Maliki, prevent partition in Iraq  3.1.2012  

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki. Photo: AP
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January 3, 2012

ANKARA,— Concerned with the increasing possibility of a sectarian partition inside fragile Iraq, Ankara has delivered a message to Shiite PM Nouri al-Maliki to “live up to his promises” to equally represent all factions in Iraq, while sending another to Washington to urge the US to “refrain from indulging” the Shiite leader.

In the face of escalating sectarian tension inside Iraq, Ankara has recently issued multiple messages to Baghdad and Washington, sounding the alarm about what might occur in Iraq in the post-US period, the Turkish daily Sabah reported. The daily claimed that Ankara got in touch with US officials, warning them against “spoiling” Maliki, who took charge of the Iraqi government after years of trying to reconcile the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish blocs in the country.

Turkey also warned the US of “the increasing possibility of Iraq being partitioned,” which would seriously jeopardize security in the region, Sabah noted.

In the wake of a Shiite bloc move against senior Sunni officials in what appears to be an attempt to strip them of their power to increase Shiite dominance in the coalition government, Ankara reportedly contacted Maliki to urge him to keep the promises he made when he rose to power and protect the multicultural structure of Iraq. Turkish officials further called on Maliki “not to meddle in Syrian politics,” on the grounds that the sectarian situation in Iraq is not connected to the situation in Syria, which is experiencing a bloody uprising to force a change of power in that country.

Maliki promised that he would be the voice of all Iraqis when he became prime minister, comforting the masses that Iraq would not fall into sectarian or ethnic strife when the US left the country. A day after US troops left in early December, Maliki issued an arrest warrant for the top Sunni official, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, saying he had paid his bodyguards to assassinate rivals some years back, but Hashemi’s defense suggested that the charges are politically motivated to defame him.

When Maliki asked parliament to fire his Sunni deputy, blaming him for “Saddam-like aspirations” against the country’s unity, the Shiite move to hoard power turned into a campaign that Sunnis interpreted as a threat against the members of the sect. Sunnis started leaving Shiite or mixed population neighborhoods in fear of becoming targets of attacks, the Associated Press news agency reported on Monday. Days after the arrest warrant, multiple bombings rocked Baghdad, killing dozens and injuring even more, all the while giving the initial signal that Iraq could see more deaths as conflict between sects continues.

The sectarian conflict in Iraq also dealt a significant blow to Turkey, which relies heavily on the Iraqi route for its economic ties to the Middle East, given its measures against Syria, blocking its only other alternative route for transportation.

Warning that Turkey’s door in the south might close if Iraq -- already a dangerous area -- becomes more hazardous after a possible partition, expert and academic Mensur Akgün voiced concern that Turkey’s ties with the semiautonomous Kurdish administration in the north will need fine tuning, the daily Taraf reported in an interview on Monday.

“If Iraq falls apart for a reason that lies outside the Kurdish bloc, Turkey will have to recognize a Kurdish state in Iraq’s north,” Akgün was quoted by Taraf as saying, as he justified the logic of such a move on Turkey’s increased need for stronger connections with the Kurdish administration when Sunnis and Shiites wage a sectarian war in the rest of the country. Predicting that the Kurdish administration would stay out of the sectarian strife to maintain stability, Akgün suggested that an unlikely alliance has arisen between the Kurdish administration and Turkey, “sides the West did not believe would concur.”

Turkey in the past had an icy relationship with northern Iraq, from where outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members infiltrate onto Turkish soil and launch attacks that have claimed tens of thousands of lives due to the terrorist group’s aspirations for an autonomous Kurdish zone inside Turkey. After the US intervention, a politically organized Kurdish administration emerged in the north, warming up relations with Turkey in the fields of economy and politics, while assisting the country’s fight against PKK terrorism.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara, U.S., the PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 

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