Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zebari told Al Arabiya on Friday that Baghdad’s stance on Syria is unified and based on one that will allow “political change in Syria through a succinct process.”
Zebari said that Baghdad has held "meetings with Syrian opposition, and relations with the Syrian government,” at the same time.
He also rejected the claim that Iran has any role in formulating Iraq’s policy toward Syria, and said “Iran does not control a national, political Iraqi decision.”
However, “Iraq wants to deal with Iran based on mutual interests,” and both countries have historical ties.
He described “what is happening in Syria as important to [Iraq],"
adding, "that the [Iraqi government] is afraid that the conflict to widen to become a full-fledged sectarian war.”
The Iraqi government, he said, does not agree with the idea of imposing further sanctions against Syria.
Refugees in Iraq, Syria
The Iraqi government has started taking procedural steps to help with the situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria, he said. There are around
140,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria, he added.
The uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has also seen Iraq host Syrian refugees.
The Iraqi-Syrian border is still open, he said, and the country is now hosting about 6,000 Syrian refugees.
No financial or humanitarian assistance was given to Assad’s regime nor has the Iraqi government given any training to the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
When asked about Iran’s role in the conflict, Zebari said that Tehran “has an important role in the Syrian situation,” and that the U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan has requested both Saudi Arabia and Iran to be involved in solving the crisis.
“Saudi Arabia with its weight and position is an influential player in the regional equation.”
The defection of Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf al-Fares, took place outside Iraq, he clarified.
More defections and division are expected, he added.
More than 17,000 people have been killed in violence since an uprising against Assad’s regime broke out in March last year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.