Last updated: 19 April, 2012

Iraq’s Kurdish leader meets fugitive countryman

Iraq’s fugitive vice president, who has been sheltering in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, following a political dispute in Baghdad on Thursday met the region’s leader Massud Barzani.

The two Iraqis got together for a closed meeting in Istanbul, where Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Muslim, has been staying for the last 10 days as part of a regional tour he began in early April.

“We have had fruitful talks,” Hashemi told the press without giving details.

Barzani is here for talks with Turkey’s top officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to boost counter-terrorism efforts, as well as to discuss regional issues including the unrest in Syria.

The Kurdish leader has been sheltering Hashemi since Nuri al-Maliki’s central Baghdad government issued an arrest warrant against the vice president in December after allegations of running a death squad.

Hashemi vehemently denies the charges and accuses Maliki of fabricating them to pave the way for one-man rule in Iraq.

His opinion is shared by Barzani, who said that Iraq was moving towards another dictatorship under Maliki’s rule.

Since political crises deepened in Iraq late last year, Ankara has said it will welcome Hashemi if the fugitive decided to come to Turkey.

Hashemi’s regional tour kicked off with a visit to Doha, which refused Baghdad’s demand to deport Hashemi, further straining ties between the Shiite and Sunni regional rivals.

Hashemi’s aides said his visits were part of a regional tour and he would not live in exile but be back in the Kurdish region in Iraq.