Iraqi television Saturday (25/9) afternoon reported that Prime Minister Mustafa Khadhimi’s office released a statement rejecting a request by a group of 300 officials to normalize relations with Israel. The television report added that the statement called the meeting “illegal.”
Arab media indicated that parliament speaker Mohammed Halbousi and one of his deputies also rejected the request. Iraqi President Barham Salih also rejected normalization.
The meeting, which took place Friday in the Kurdistan capital, Irbil, was sponsored by the American peace advocacy and research group, the Center for Peace Communications. The group was chaired by Joseph Braude, an American Jew. The Braude family fled Baghdad in the 1940s. Braude told the meeting that those gathered in Irbil had made a “bold decision.”
He said he supported the bold efforts of the leaders of the six Iraqi provinces of Baghdad, Anbar, Mosul,
Salahadin, Babil and Diyala. He considered that they had confidently expressed their desire to enter into the framework of the Ibrahim agreement, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, which first normalized relations with Israel.
The head of the Sunni group “Sahwa,” Wissam Hardan told the meeting that Iraq’s federal system allows various regions to express support for normalizing relations with Israel.
He said Iraq’s federal system of government allowed various parties to express a desire to normalize relations with Israel and strengthen relations with the Israeli people.
Paul Sullivan, a Washington-based Middle East analyst, told VOA, “the meeting in Irbil to discuss improving Iraq-Israel relations took Baghdad by storm.” But, says Sullivan, “It could be a sign of future developments. It could be an indication of a changing view of some in Iraq towards Israel.” He added that the Kurds, who hosted Friday’s meeting, “have been more open to Israel than the rest of the population in Iraq.”
However, several Kurdish leaders present at the meeting changed their attitude after hearing opposition from Baghdad. They claimed that they were “not aware of the true intent of the meeting and that the organizers misled those present about the intentions of the meeting.”
Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya TV station, which covered the meeting, said the committee might want to “find out beforehand the reaction of the Iraqi public to the normalization of relations with Israel.” [ka/jm]