Iraqi PM to Visit Syria as Relations Warm

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will visit neighboring Syria Wednesday in a bid to ease tension between the longtime rivals.The anticipated meeting in Damascus comes as Mr. Maliki tries to keep his job amid a seven-month political impasse in Baghdad.  An advisor to Mr. Maliki says the Iraqi prime minister will also visit Turkey and Jordan this week.Mr. Maliki’s chief rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, held talks on Iraq’s political situation in Riyadh Sunday with Saudi King Abdullah.Iraqi and U.S. advisors are concerned that frustration over the political stalemate could lead to violence.Last month, Iraq and Syria agreed to restore full diplomatic relations. Iraq withdrew its ambassador from Syria in August of last year after Mr. Maliki accused Damascus of sheltering two people he said were behind bombings in Baghdad that killed 100 people. Syria reciprocated.The two countries held talks last year in the aftermath of diplomatic withdrawals, mediated by Turkey.

The two Arab neighbors have shown signs of increasing cooperation of late. Last month, Iraq and Syria reached an agreement to build two pipelines linking Iraq to Mediterranean sea ports for the export of crude oil.Saddam Hussein and the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, leaders of rival wings of the Arab nationalist Ba’ath party, severed ties when Syria sided with Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war – Voanews