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Turkish premier visits Syria for talks on Iraqi government deadlock
Writer/Source: Agencies (12/10/2010)
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday for talks focusing on the political situation in neighbouring Iraq.

'It's natural to give priority to the Iraqi issue. There is a government-formation process which is supposed to have started right after the end of elections in Iraq. More than six months have passed and a government hasn't been formed yet,' al-Assad said in a joint press conference.

Al-Assad stressed that his talks with Erdogan were not meant to interfere in Iraqi affairs.

'Definitely, to discuss this topic does not mean that we as Iraq's neighboring countries - whether Syria, Turkey or others - are speaking on behalf of the Iraqis. The work and decisions remain for the Iraqis,' he said.

Key Iraqi politicians have visited Syria recently as the deadlock over forming a new Iraqi government continues.

Former Iraqi prime minister and the head of the Iraqiya List, Iyad Allawi, said in Damascus last week that he had asked al-Assad to help stop alleged Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs.

Ammar al-Hakim, a Shiite Iraqi political leader, visited Syria for the second time in three months on Tuesday. Accompanied by an entourage of Iraqi politicians, al-Hakim met with al-Assad for talks on resolving the political deadlock.

Al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is part of a broader coalition called the National Alliance, which last week said it would back incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to remain in his post.

Allawi, however, rejects the National Alliance and its nomination of al-Maliki.

Allawi's Iraqiya List won the largest number of votes in the March elections, securing 91 seats to 89 for al-Maliki's State of Law coalition - leaving both well short of a parliamentary majority.

There has been increased cooperation between Turkey and Syria on issues of security, as well as economic and cultural ties, in recent years. Erdogan previously visited Syria in December 2009 and al-Assad was in Turkey last June.
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