Iraqi Minister Explains Country’s Stance on Regional Unrest

In a meeting with NATO ambassadors and the EU Political and Security committee, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari expressed his country’s stance on unrest transpiring across the region.

al-monitor Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari meets with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (not seen) in Baghdad, June 17, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani.

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Jul 11, 2013

Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari held talks with the NATO council of ambassadors and the ambassador members of the EU Political and Security Committee in Brussels to discuss the war in Syria, the changes in Egypt, the role of Iran and the dangers surrounding Iraq. Zebari noted “the interest of both sides in the Iraqi stance.”

He told Al-Hayat that his country “is committed to a neutral stance regarding the Syrian crisis. It is not taking sides with anyone — be it Iran, the [Syrian] regime, Hezbollah, the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Turkey. A neutral stance might be useful, in fact.”

Zebari said, “The expectations and prospects for the Geneva II conference are not encouraging. Russia and America, who are the sponsors of this conference, saw eye to eye with [Iraq]. Some sides were suggesting the idea of holding it on the sidelines of the meetings of the UN General Assembly in New York.”

Yet Zebari was suspicious of holding the conference in New York because “it will come back empty-handed.” He clarified that the reason behind putting off the conference could be summarized by “the conflicts between the participating parties and the conference’s agenda.” He also noted that it is important for “the representatives of the government and the opposition to focus on the Syrian crisis. As for the other countries, they might participate in the opening session.”

Commenting on the new Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad al-Jarba's statement regarding the need to change the situation on the ground militarily before going to Geneva, Zebari noted, “The military situation is unstable, and it is changing from week to week in several regions. The regime has been shelling Homs and Aleppo and its countryside for 10 days, after having tightened its grip on Qusair. However, it has still not been able to win the battle. If the opposition enhances its military situation, will it be able to continue advancing?”

Iraqis are participating in the battles in Syria alongside the regime forces and the opposition brigades. Zebari said, “The government strictly refuses and discourages the involvement of any Iraqi recruits in the Syrian conflict. Yet there are some people fighting in the ranks of both Shiite parties to protect Shiite holy sites, while others are joining radical Salafist organizations, including Jabhat al-Nusra, which encompass Iraqi militants and citizens from different Arab nationalities. The figures are scary, and those recruits might put their countries in danger in the future.”

Zebari’s discussions with NATO and EU diplomats revolved around the issue of foreign militants.

Regarding Iran’s participation in the Geneva II Conference, Zebari confirmed, “Tehran is part of the crisis, and it can contribute to solving it. The ‘ostrich policy’ will not do any good here. There are several ways to involve Iran and Saudi Arabia in the conference, and the two sponsoring countries can find the right form to contribute to finding solutions to the existing conflicts.”

Zebari also expressed “the Iraqi government’s support for the uprising in Egypt and for the army assisting the Egyptian revolution forces in bringing about change once again.” At the same time, he believes “there are risks facing this change, thus, the transition of power to a civil government must take place quickly, and the elections must be organized without further ado, with the participation of all political forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood. After all, the latter represents a main active political force in Egypt, and it has historically been the source of radical parties and militias.”

Moreover, Zebari expressed his concern about the difficulties that Egypt is undergoing “due to the social division, yet with wisdom and [strong] institutions, the country is bound to break free from its quandary. Egypt has witnessed a transition of power, where the army stood beside a large number of people.”

Iraq and NATO have agreed on ratifying a memorandum of understanding in the field of defense strategies. Zebari added that the government might appoint a NATO communication officer who would be based in Brussels to follow up on the cooperation and to help Iraq benefit with experience in the fields of border control, surveying operations and energy security.”

Regarding the political crisis in Iraq and the terrorism operations staining the country with blood, Zebari said, “Recently, many analysts felt that this country is headed to the abyss and underestimated the awareness of Iraqi leaders. However, these leaders will find solutions for the existing disagreements as per the constitution and the regulatory laws. Iraq has undergone civil war and strife, and it will not fall into the same trap again. Moreover, the current political dialogues and reconciliations in Iraq stem from an internal urge, not a foreign one, because the region is in the eye of the storm, and there must be internal immunity to face the storm.”

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