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Turkey To Host Iraq-Syria Talks In Istanbul

Syrian President Bashar Assad (R) meets Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Damascus, August 2009.
ANKARA (Reuters) -- The foreign ministers of Iraq and Syria will meet in Istanbul on September 17 under Turkey's efforts to mediate in a diplomatic feud between Baghdad and Damascus over militant attacks, Turkish Foreign Ministry sources said.

Iraq and Syria recalled their ambassadors last month after Baghdad accused Damascus of sheltering militants it blames for a string of bombings on Iraqi soil, including two huge truck bombs outside government ministries last month that killed 95 people.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who earlier this month traveled to Baghdad and Damascus as Ankara attempts to mediate in the dispute, will also attend the talks between Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and Iraq's Hoshyar Zebari, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has formally asked the UN Security Council to launch an inquiry into the bombs, which triggered a diplomatic feud between Iraq and Syria, which had only recently begun to deepen ties strained since the early days of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Iraq's accusations "immoral" and demanded Baghdad provide proof to back them up.

Turkey, which in recent years has deepened ties with neighbors Iraq and Syria, is worried the feud could destabilize the region, in particular as Ankara seeks a solution to its decades-long conflict in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

Turkey needs cooperation from Iraq and Syria to fight Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas who are based along their borders.