x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Erdogan's bid to end Iraq power struggle

The Turkish prime minister warns that religious strife had turned the neighbouring country into a "sea of blood".

ISTANBUL // Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has started a bid to end the power struggle in Iraq, warning that religious strife had turned the neighbouring country into a "sea of blood".

Mr Erdogan was scheduled to talk to Nouri Al Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, by telephone yesterday. There was no word on whether a statement would be released afterwards.

Mr Erdogan will receive senior officials from both Iraq and Iran in Ankara tomorrow in an effort to calm the situation in Iraq, a pro-government newspaper reported yesterday. More than one hundred people have died in recent bomb attacks in Iraq, mainly aimed at Shia Muslims.

Tensions in Iraq have soared since Mr Al Maliki, a Shiite, accused his Sunni vice president, Tarek Al Hashemi, of running assassination squads and teams of insurgents behind bombings. With a warrant out for his arrest, Mr Al Hashemi has taken refuge in Iraq's autonomously governed northern Kurdish region.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara on Monday, Mr Erdogan said: "I will talk to the prime minister tomorrow. In particular, I do not agree with the steps taken with regard to First Vice President Hashemi." Tomorrow, the Turkish prime minister is expected to receive Osama Al Nujaifi, the speaker of the Iraqi parliament and one of the country's top Sunni officials, as well as Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, the Sabah newspaper reported yesterday.

At the news conference, Mr Erdogan expressed concern about the increasing tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. "A sectarian approach is emerging in Iraq at the moment. Unfortunately, this sectarian approach has turned Iraq into a sea of blood."

Mr Erdogan also criticised the United States for withdrawing its forces from Iraq prematurely. "I told [US] Vice President [Joe] Biden, and I told [US President Barack] Obama: 'It would be useful if you stayed until a democratic system is well in place,' I told them," Mr Erdogan said.

"It became clear how democratic [Iraq] was in the very moment they pulled out," he added in reference to the recent violence in Iraq.

tseibert@thenational.ae