As US pullout looms, Ankara intensifies talks with Iraqi officials, urges broad-based govt
A senior Iraqi politician visited Ankara over the weekend for talks, to be soon followed by another key leader, amid protracted Iraqi efforts to form a new government in the war-torn country. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh on Saturday, and the two had extensive discussions of Iraqi political groups' efforts to form a government, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Al-Dabbagh came to Ankara as the envoy of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and conveyed a message from him, the ministry added. Davutoglu has had several talks with representatives from Iraqi political groups, most notably from the cross-sectarian al-Iraqiyya bloc of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, since March's Iraqi parliamentary elections. Public contact with al-Maliki's Shiite-led State of Law coalition, on the other hand, has been rare so far. Last month, Davutoglu met with Allawi and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in surprise talks in Damascus, a move interpreted as an attempt to prevent al-Maliki from forming a government. Allawi's al-Iraqiyya bloc, where the Sunnis are also represented, won the elections by a small margin, but despite this al-Maliki's State of Law has sought alliances with other groups to form the government. Ankara has urged a broad-based government and sees Sunni representation in the Iraqi parliamentary politics as a key condition for stability in the troubled country as US forces are preparing for a withdrawal. In a further sign that its withdrawal is on track despite the political impasse and a recent increase in violence, the US handed over control of all combat duties to Iraqi security forces on Saturday. In addition to al-Dabbagh, Ankara is also welcoming visitors from another Shiite-led bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance, which placed third in the elections. A senior political figure within the Iraqi National Alliance, Humam Hamoudi, had talks in Ankara last week and former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, also a senior representative of the alliance, will meet with Davutoglu tomorrow, the ministry said.