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Oct 18, 2007
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Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Criticizes Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for Supporting Turkish Military Action in Kurdistan

#1584 | 06:19
Source: Al-Arabiya Network (Dubai/Saudi Arabia)

Following are excerpts from an interview with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on October 18, 2007:

Jalal Talabani: True, the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] can be accused of carrying out terrorist operations from time to time, but what is the result? Would a military solution guarantee an end to this problem? We are convinced that it would not. Moreover, there is an important question... I believe it was a certain Turkish official who said: "The number of PKK members in Turkey is such-and-such, while in the Kandil Mountains [in Kurdistan], they number such-and-such." So let them get rid of the ones in their own territory, if they can. Maybe they can move around more easily in the Kurdistan province. My desire to avoid Turkish and Kurdish bloodshed and to protect the interests of Turkey and the Kurdish people makes me believe that a military solution to the PKK problem is futile.


First, I am proud of my long-standing relations with the Al-Assad family, especially with Eternal President Hafez Al-Assad, to whom we are greatly indebted, as we never forget. Throughout my term in office, I refrained from making any comment whatsoever about the Syrian position vis-à-vis Iraq, as you surely remember. I never participated in the Iraqi [media] campaign against Syria. This, however, is a very important point. It is true that our brother, Dr. Bashar Al-Assad, reassured us that he supports Iraqi independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, but this lies in contradiction to his approval of the violation of Iraqi sovereignty by foreign forces. [This behavior] contradicts the promises he made us. To be honest, at first I hesitated whether to comment, because I wasn't sure that this was true, but when I heard his statement with my own ears on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, I decided to express my deep regret at this position of his.


Interviewer: Mr. President, if there is a [Turkish] military operation, what will the Americans do?

Jalal Talabani: President Bush issued only a mild condemnation. It depends on where the Turkish military forces will carry out their operation. If they carry it out in the Kandil Mountains, far from civilians and without harming the Kurdish citizens, the [Americans] will merely issue a verbal condemnation and convey astonishment, but I do not believe that the Americans will allow the Turkish army to enter Kurdish cities, like Zakho, Dahuk, and so on, because it is their responsibility to maintain security in the region and in Iraq.


I think the policy of the Turkish government is not to destroy... When I say "Turkish government," I mean the government of Recep Tayyip Erdo&3287;an. It is not his policy to destroy the federalism of Kurdistan. Iran officially recognized the federalization of Kurdistan, when it officially invited brother Nechirvan Barazani, the prime minister of Kurdistan, who visited Tehran in his capacity of prime minister of Kurdistan. Apart from Iraq, the Iranian Republic is the only country in the region to recognize the Kurdistan province. Therefore, I do not believe the two countries will wage a war in an effort to put an end to this federalism.

Interviewer: Mr. President, you keep talking about "federalism." Who, apart from the Kurds, wants this federalism?

Jalal Talabani: The 12 million Iraqis who voted for the Iraqi constitution. Article One of the Iraqi constitution declares that Iraq is a federal, democratic, independent, and united state. But this article is marginal in the constitution. It is not marginal. It is the first article in the Iraqi constitution.


As I said, the vast majority of the Iraqi people support the federalism.

Interviewer: Even the Sunni Arabs?

Jalal Talabani: We'll get to the Sunni Arabs. The vast majority of the Shiite Arabs support it, all the Christians support it, and all the Kurds support it. Some of the Sunni Arab brothers support it, the secular Sunni Arabs support it, as well as some other forces. Even the Iraqi Islamic Party is not against the federalism of Kurdistan. The Sunni Arab brothers who oppose the federalism are, in fact, against the federalism in the south, which they call "sectarian federalism." The federalism of Kurdistan enjoys the consensus of all active political forces in Iraqi society.


I don't think there will be an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Even if Hillary Clinton eventually becomes president, and the Democratic Party comes to power, there will not be an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Perhaps there will be a new policy regarding the deployment of forces, the training of the Iraqi army, the transfer of responsibility for security over to the Iraqi forces, and gradual withdrawal. America does not intend to withdraw immediately, but will gradually do so. During this visit to America, I met dozens of Congressmen. They were of both parties and held different opinions, but they all told me that there would be no immediate withdrawal from Iraq, as they considered this to be a disaster, and that they believed in gradual withdrawal.

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