Erdogan warns Maliki: We won’t remain silent towards ‘sectarianism’
ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Iraqi authorities on Tuesday that Turkey will not remain silent if they start a sectarian conflict in neighbouring Iraq.
"(Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri) al-Maliki should know that: if you start a conflict in Iraq in the form of sectarian clashes, it will be impossible for us to remain silent," Erdogan said in remarks to his lawmakers in parliament, carried on television.
"Those who stand by with folded arms watching brothers massacre each other are accomplices to murder," Erdogan said.
The Turkish leader heavily criticised Maliki for his accusation that Turkey was intervening in Iraq's affairs.
"I consider Maliki's attitude ... as very ugly and very unfortunate," Erdogan said.
"We expect the Iraqi government to leave aside sectarian discrimination and express a responsible attitude to prevent sectarian conflicts," Erdogan said.
In Baghdad, an adviser to Maliki refused to comment and stressed the matter was "extremely sensitive" and that the government must examine the affair closely before responding.
Sunni lawmaker Haider al-Mulla, member of the secular Iraqiya party, said Maliki had been warned to "not engage in confessional politics as it would complicate matters ... and open the way to regional interference".
Mulla said he hoped neighbouring countries would keep an "equal distance" from Iraq's sectarian components "as it is not in the interests of Sunnis to be backed by Turkey or of Shiites to be backed by Iran".
Mulla warned that both countries move according to their own interests "and Iraq will pay the price".
At the weekend, Iraq said that Turkey, Iran and unnamed Arab countries were trying to "intervene" in Baghdad's month-long political crisis and not respecting its sovereignty.
Baghdad's claim that Ankara was intervening in Iraqi affairs was already an issue when Erdogan telephoned Maliki on January 10.
Maliki has since criticised Ankara for its remarks, and the two countries have summoned each other's ambassadors to express their displeasure.
Iraq has been mired in a political crisis since US forces withdrew from the country on December 18, pitting the Shiite-led government against the main Sunni-backed political bloc.