Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Iraqi Prime Minister’s three day trip to Syria continues; after talks with Syrian premier Mohammad Naji al Otari, today he is due to meet with president Bashar al Assad. Maliki lived in Damascus a san exile during the ‘80’s, but this is his first visit to the premier. The agenda for talks with Assad and state authorities will centre on the economy and oil, but also the situation of about 2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, border control along the 600 km frontier as well as the de-baathificazation and national reconciliation.
On this last point Maliki, a Shiite is being targeted by the opposition along with the United States: just yesterday two republican senators urged the advent of a “less sectarian, more unifying Iraqi government”. There is also sharp internal criticism. Maliki’s executive is in full blown crises since the defection of 18 of its 37 ministers, from the Sunni bloc Accordance Front, from Sadyrists and secularists in the Iraqi Nationalist List, headed by former premier Iyad Allawi. With this visit to Syria, a Sunni nation still seen in regional public opinion as the champion of anti Americanism and Arab nationalism, al Maliki could attempt to recover legitimacy and consensus on the entire front.
The Syria visit is a sign of the gradual thawing of relations between the two countries after 25 years of hostilities. The significance Baghdad is giving to the three day visit is further underlined by the high level delegation accompanying al Maliki: among them Home Affairs minister Jawwad al Bolani, Finance minister Abd al Fallah as Sudani and Energy minister Hussein Shahrastani