Turkish President Abdullah Gül, visiting the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa on Friday, said Tariq al-Hashemi, who faces a red notice from Interpol, still retains the title of vice president of Iraq and can't be considered as at the same level as terrorist groups that are based in the Iraqi mountains.
Addressing the press in Şanlıurfa, Gül responded to journalists' questions over the Interpol red notice for the arrest of Hashemi. Interpol issued a red notice on Tuesday and stated that the arrest warrant for the Iraqi vice president, who faces charges of leading death squads against his political rivals within the conflict-ridden country, had come from Iraqi officials.
The decision further strained relations between Turkey and Iraq, which have engaged in a war of words against each other over the deteriorating political situation in Iraq as Baghdad has several times accused Ankara of intervening in its domestic politics.
However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has shot back recently and vehemently criticized the accusations made by Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite Prime Minister who has tightened his grip on the Iraqi political arena, and said the claims are groundless.
Beyond that, Turkey has sternly dismissed calls to hand Hashemi over to Baghdad. “Mr. Hashemi still possesses the title of vice president of Iraq. He is currently in Turkey for medical treatment. Turkey will do whatever is necessary,” President Gül said.
Equating Hashemi with terrorist groups based in the Iraqi mountains is not fair, as he noted that Hashemi still retains the title of vice president of Iraq. He went on to say that Turkey is not meddling in another country's internal affairs with regard to the endless accusations from Baghdad against its northern neighbor.
“Our neighbor Iraq has embarked on a process of reconstruction. When Iraq experienced its hardest days in the near past, Turkey appeared at the front to help its neighbor. Iraqis as well as the world know this,” Gül noted. Gül said Turkey sees Iraqis as brothers and emphasized that Turkey has no intention of meddling in Iraq's internal affairs. He pointed out that Turkey does not discriminate, either on race or sect, when it builds relations with different groups in Iraq.
Turkey's only advice for Iraq, Gül said, is to say to the Iraqi government that they should include all segments of Iraqi society and focus their energy on the reconstruction of Iraq rather than foment new quarrels and deep fragmentation among the different groups.
Regarding the Interpol red notice, Gül said the Interpol decision is a technical matter, and Turkey's Foreign Ministry and security units will take care of the issue within the scope of international law.