Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will not fall and attempts to overthrow it by force will aggravate the crisis in the region, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Sunday.
“It has been one year and the regime did not fall, and it will not fall, and why should it fall?” Maliki told a news conference in Baghdad.
“We reject any arming [of Syrian rebels] and the process to overthrow the regime, because this will leave a greater crisis in the region,” Maliki said.
His comments were Iraq’s strongest statement yet on the year-long Syria crisis, and is another attack on the position of hardline states including Qatar and Saudi Arabia that advocate arming Syrian rebels and have called for Assad’s departure.
The two Gulf states sent low-level delegations to a landmark Arab summit in Baghdad on Thursday, in what the Qatari premier said was a “message” to Iraq.
Without naming them, Maliki said “the stance of these two states is very strange. They are calling for sending arms instead of working on putting out the fire, and they will hear our voice, that we are against arming and against foreign interference.”
“We are against the interference of some countries in Syria’s internal affairs, and those countries that are interfering in Syria’s internal affairs will interfere in the internal affairs of any country,” the Iraqi leader added.
He was speaking as delegates from dozens of European, Arab and other countries met in Istanbul to consider ways of supporting Syrian opposition representatives and to apply further pressure on Assad’s regime.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said earlier that senior Iraqi officials were present at the “Friends of Syria” meeting, after comments by Maliki’s spokesperson that Iraq might not attend in order to preserve its role as mediator.
“Iraq is taking part in the second meeting of the Friends of Syria in Istanbul, and the deputy foreign minister and our permanent representative at the Arab League are attending the conference,” Zebari told AFP.
The United Nations says Assad’s crackdown on the uprising against his rule has cost more than 9,000 lives since it erupted in March last year.