Interview with Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq
Question (Q): How do you evaluate the meeting you had with Ph.D. Iyyad Allawi? Are there any common standpoints which would allow further consultations between your State of Law Coalition and Allawi’s Iraqi Bloc?
Nouri al MALIKI (NM): The meeting was friendly and it clarified a series of negative and unjustified facts. Enhanced dialog and communication will continue between the two alliances in order to identify the national coordinates that could stand at the basis of a national unity government. I averted that Iraq is going through some dangerous and difficult times and we need to agree on a common political discourse. The two alliances also attended a round table in the same day and we plan to organize similar meetings with the other factions and parties whose slogan will be “The National Alliance”.
Q: How wide is the gap that separates you? Can these differences be surpassed in order to form a government of national partnership?
NM: There are no significant differences between us. The differences in our approaches can be cut out by setting the constitutional provisions at the basis of the political process from our country. The existing conflicts were caused by personal delicacies on both sides. Partnership remains the guiding principle for the formation of the Iraqi national unity government. The Iraqi government can only be formed through partnership.
Q: If the negotiations with the Iraqi National Bloc, the Kurd factions and the Sadrist current fail, what solutions could you identify to overcome the dissentions?
NM: The negotiations with the National Bloc and the Kurds can no longer be threatened by failure. We were able to build a partnership whose importance goes beyond the negotiation for the 220 seats in the Parliament. There are still efforts for the formation of government and minor dissentions can not lead to the failure of the domestic political process. We do not need bargains; we need consensus between all the Iraqi political parties and alliances.
Q: Are you open to the friendly settlement of the disturbance caused by the future Prime Minister? Do you think that from this point of view, there could be unanticipated changes in the Parliament?
NM: I doubt that there will be such surprises in the Parliament. On the contrary, I am convinced that it will mark the beginning of a real dialog between the political entities of the country. As for the identity of the future Prime Minister, the issue has already been clarified and it only needs to be put into practice according to the Constitution.
Q: You had several meetings with important American officials from the Congress, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Council for International Relations. How do the Americans view these developments? Did Deputy State Secretary Jefrey Filtmann decide to come to Baghdad in order to have meetings and negotiations with the active political parties for the formation of the new Iraqi government?
NM: Contrary to what many people think, the Americans do not have a significant role in the current Iraqi political process. We cannot compare this role with the one held during the formation of the previous government. As we have said before, the United States decided to be an observer rather than an active element in our domestic problems. Of course, the Americans have their objectives and desires but they do not intervene and act in a specific direction to achieve them. In fact, they purported that they do not want to intervene in our domestic political problems.
Q: Did you reach any agreement with Alawi about the repartition and distribution of decision-making positions?
NM: We did not approach this issue. The future commissions of dialog will deal with it.
Q: I have heard that you started again to pump oil from Kirkuk through the Syrian terminal from Banias and that you also agreed to activate the economic cooperation agreements between the two countries.
NM: The agreements will be put into practice very soon. We do not export oil through Banias terminal from a technical reason: the inappropriate condition of the pipe between Iraq and Banias-Tartouss. We agreed, along with the Syrian leaders, to build another pipeline with an enhanced transport capacity which would export the Iraqi oil. The agreements have not been revoked, but there are some objective delays in implementation.
Editor’s note: Resumption of Iraqi oil exports through the terminal at Banias (closed since regimes Saddam Hussein Hafez al-Assad was in power), is always present as problem in bilateral talks, but without progress, for two main reasons: lack of funds for this investment (the pipeline is to be fully restored); geopolitical considerations linked to U.S. interests in Iraq and Syria.