Qatar says air strikes ineffective without Iraqi national dialogue - Gulf Business
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Qatar says air strikes ineffective without Iraqi national dialogue

Qatar says air strikes ineffective without Iraqi national dialogue

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah said the international community was not doing enough to pressure all parties in Iraq to start national reconciliation.

Qatar said on Wednesday coalition air strikes in Iraq were hopeless without a real push for national reconciliation and that the door should be left open to those who leave al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing.

Speaking a day after a meeting of countries fighting Isil, Khaled al-Attiyah said the international community was not doing enough to pressure all parties in Iraq to start national reconciliation.

“A big group of people in Iraq are being marginalised: if we don’t do something to include them in the political process, then we are forcing them to join the other side,” Attiyah told Reuters in an interview in Paris, referring to Sunni Muslims.

“We see no hope in continuing an air campaign without simultaneously having a national dialogue on the ground.”

Around 20 coalition ministers met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Paris, in part to persuade his Shi’ite Muslim-led government to repair relations with Iraq’s Sunni minority to strengthen its campaign against the Sunni Isil, also known as ISIS.

Despite a show of unity, Abadi appeared to reject suggestions that Baghdad was not doing more to try to achieve reconciliation with Sunnis.

“The combat is not boots on the ground … it is the national dialogue. That is the real combat,” Attiyah, a former fighter pilot, said, adding that Abadi needed help from all those who had an influence in Iraq.

Last month, the Iraqi government had its worst military setback in nearly a year when Islamic State seized Ramadi from a weakened Iraqi army. The capital of the overwhelmingly Sunni province of Anbar is 90 km (55 miles) west of Baghdad.

Since then, government troops and allied Shi’ite militia have been building up positions around Ramadi. Many Iraqi Sunnis dislike Isil but also fear the Shi’ite militias after years of sectarian strife.

“NO WILL” IN SYRIA

Qatar is among Sunni Arab nations that have also joined in or supported U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State targets in neighbouring Syria.

However, it has questioned the lack of action by Western powers against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Although the Gulf Arab states are all opposed to Assad, Qatar has long faced criticism, including from neighbouring Gulf Arab states, for using its vast oil and gas wealth to back Islamists across the region including groups inside Syria.

Attiyah said there was “no will” from the international community to resolve the issue which had left the Syrian people with just a choice of the “tyranny of the regime or the brutality of the terrorist groups.”

“Today there are 300,000 people killed in Syria, do we forget all this and say that the Assad regime is the one going to fight terrorists?”

He again dismissed claims that Qatar supported extremist groups in Syria, including al-Qaeda’s local branch the Nusrah Front.

The leader of the Nusrah Front was last week interviewed by Qatari-funded network broadcaster Al Jazeera in what diplomats in Doha have said is part of an effort to help the group to be viewed as a national movement.

“Qatar does not deal with Daesh or Jubhat al-Nusra, but you always have to keep the door open for the Syrians who are with Jubhat al Nusra if they decide to depart from Qaeda and go back to their own people as Syrians,” Attiyah said.

He said the opposition on the ground was not just Daesch or Nusra Front.

One group of factions, the “Army of Fatah” alliance, has made gains in recent weeks against the Syrian military.

“It is a group of so many groups whose tactics have joined them together. They are not terrorist groups. The element (the core) of Jaysh al-Fatah are not terrorists and we don’t consider them extremists.”

He said Qatar, like its coalition allies, had helped groups in Syria, but that had not been enough.

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