Turkey's AKP Congress Riles Iraqi Politicians

Fugitive Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashemi’s attendance last weekend at Turkey’s AKP conference has further split an already divided Iraqi political class. Omar Sattar reports that the gathering was viewed as heavily sectarianized, since Iraqi Shiite-aligned parties chose not to participate, while Sunni groups did.

al-monitor Turkey's Prime Minister and leader of Justice and Development Party (AKP) Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a party meeting in Istanbul September 22, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

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turkish-kurdish relations, tariq al-hashemi, recep tayyip erdogan, akp

Oct 5, 2012

The feuding political wings in Iraq did not miss the chance provided by the fourth congress of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to reflect on the size of disputed positions and opinions among Iraqi parties.

Shiite parties refused to attend the congress because of Turkey’s interference in Iraqi internal affairs and [fugitive vice president] Tariq al-Hashemi’s participation, while Sunni parties said “Turkish interference [in Iraq] would be nothing compared to Iran’s interference.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and head of the Iraq National Alliance Ibrahim al-Jaafari apologized for not taking part in the the congress.

Several official Iraqi figures, most notably Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani, House Speaker Osama Najafi and Hashemi took part in the congress.

Maliki’s State of Law Coalition was of the opinion that the participation of certain Iraqi figures in the congress was an attempt “to please Turkish officials at the expense of the feelings of the Iraqi people.”

Adnan al-Sarraj, a member of the State of Law Coalition, told Al-Hayat: “These officials acted like Turkey’s employees instead of Iraqi officials. They did not pay any attention to the flagrant Turkish interference in Iraqi affairs, nor to the fact that Turkey is leaving behind the country's sovereignty, violating its constitution and insulting its government.”

Sarraj added: “[The AKP] didn’t act as a political party. It lacked diplomacy when it invited the convicted Tariq al-Hashemi and other Iraqi figures. The party is aware of the terrorist crimes for which Hashemi was convicted, and because of that, the party is ignoring the feelings of the Iraqi people.”

A leader of the Iraqiya list, Hamid al-Mutlaq, said he found it strange to sensationalize the issue. In a statement to Al-Hayat, Mutlaq said: “It is normal that Iraq participates in the congress. It is a normal response to an official invitation and it sustains relations with Turkey.”

He added, “Boycotting Turkey because it is interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs is strange, given that Iran’s interference is more flagrant. It is more appropriate that no Iraqi official visits Iran.”

As for Hashemi’s participation in the congress, Mutlaq said that “no one can impose on any event’s organizer a list of people banned from attending. This issue only concerns Turkey.”

Mutlaq continued, “It is inappropriate that a person with a specific title [Hashemi] attends the congress. I know that he is wanted by the judiciary. I don't have any personal, sectarian or political position against him or against any Iraqi citizen, but I am committed to the decision of the Iraqi judiciary.”

Jaafari, the head of the Iraq National Alliance, said, “It is strange that none of the coalition parties knew about [Hashemi’s invitation], while some of the National Alliance parties were asked to participate. When we informed them, their reply was very normal; then they refused to attend. Some of them arrived to Istanbul and returned. Others arrived to Ankara and refused to participate.”

The delegation of the Sadrist Movement refused to enter the hall, despite having come to Ankara. This was because Hashemi was present.

In addition, Mahmoud Othman, an independent MP in the Kurdistan Alliance, said that Hashemi’s participation in the congress was “provocative” to Iraq, and called for the opening of bureaux of the anti-Turkey Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Baghdad.

Othman added, “Inviting Tariq al-Hashemi to the Justice and Development Party’s congress in Turkey yesterday [October 1] is a clear provocation to Iraq, given that Hashemi is wanted by the judiciary.”

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