BAGHDAD — In an attempt to end an escalating war of words, the Foreign Ministers of Iraq and Syria met in the Egyptian capital on Sept. 9 to discuss strategies of reducing tensions that have concerned the rest of the Arab region in recent weeks.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, were joined by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who played the role of mediator, and League of Arab States Secretary General Amr Moussa.
The conflict started in August, when Baghdad accused Damascus of harbouring two terrorists wanted in connection with a bombing on Aug. 19 in Baghdad that claimed the lives of more than 100 people. Iraq accuses Syria of having allowed foreign insurgents to cross the border with impunity to carry out attacks in Iraq for years, and demands that Syria hand over more than 179 insurgents wanted in connection with numerous bombings that have occurred on its territory.
Syria refused to hand over any suspects without clear evidence of their involvement in violence in Iraq. At the Cairo meeting, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Davutoglu attempted to present a list of names of suspects that Iraq claims have been involved in attacks, together with documents proving their involvement, but Muallem refused to examine it.
The talks then reportedly turned bitter, with Zebari accusing Damascus of "agitating sectarian strife" in Iraq "and supporting terrorism and violence, which threaten Iraq's unity.”
Muallem countered that Iraq blamed Syria for harbouring the rebels only to cover up its failure in preventing ongoing violence in the country. Muallem added that Syria condemned the Aug. 19 bombings that took place in Baghdad and all subsequent violence in Iraq, calling the Iraqi government’s verbal attacks "unfortunate."
In a press conference following the talks, Davutoglu warned against the ‘internationalisation’ of the dispute. He said that "past experience in the Arab world has demonstrated that internationalisation increases tension and crises, but does not provide solutions."