Barak meets Iraqi president in Greece

Labor head also meets Abbas, says if peace not achieved this time, it'll be Palestinians' responsibility.

barak abbas 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
barak abbas 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
It might not mean Israeli-Iraqi peace, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak shook hands and spoke briefly with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Tuesday in what is believed to be the first ever public handshake between high ranking Israeli and Iraqi officials. The handshake, which took place on the sidelines of the 23rd Socialist International Congress at the Lagonissi resort in Greece, was immediately downplayed in both Iraq and Israel. According to the BBC, Talabani's office issued a statement following the photographed handshake that said it was a "civilized social act" without special significance. The statement, according to the report, said Talabani had responded to a request from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Barak on Tuesday, and that Talabani shook Barak's hand in his capacity as leader of his Kurdish party and deputy president of the Socialist International, and not as Iraq's president. "It does not mean any obligation for the state of Iraq... and will not affect its support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority and reliance on Arab unity, the Arab initiative and legitimate international resolutions," the statement made clear. An Israeli diplomatic official said that while the handshake made a nice photograph, it lacked any real significance, and did not presage the start of a diplomatic process with Iraq. About a year and a half ago, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni shook hands with Afghani President Hamid Karzai on the sidelines of a meeting at the UN, but that did nothing as far as furthering any diplomatic ties between the two countries. Barak attended the meeting in Greece in his capacity as head of the Labor Party, and Talabani was there as one of the founding members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.