MESOP FOCUS: War of Words Escalates with Turkey

March 27 – 2017 – MESOP  – Iran and Turkey have stepped up their war of words, with the Iranian Foreign Ministry denouncing “unacceptable and unjustifiable” remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Sunday that Turkish officials continue to make “baseless, meddlesome and troublesome” assertions: “By accusing others and repeating fictitious claims, they are trying to justify their meddlesome and expansionist policies toward their neighbors.”

On Saturday, Erdoğan said at a Turkish-British forum that Iran is adopting and pursuing “racist and discriminatory” policies in Iraq. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak has claimed that about three million refugees, mostly Afghans, are trying to reach Turkey from Iran but that the Islamic Republic is “ignoring their demand for migration”.Qassemi responded, “Turkey must learn from Iran how it has hosted millions of refugees for more than three decades and has never abused this human and humanitarian issue for specific and politically-motivated purposes against any other country.”

Iran, looking for a boost in trade with Turkey, had been promoting reconciliation with Ankara over regional issues. The two countries, despite being on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict, have worked alongside Russia in recent months for a nominal ceasefire and political talks.

In late January, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared after a phone call with Erdoğan, “We are all determined to fight all terrorist groups in the region. I hope relative stability prevails in Syria and the region through cooperation between Iran and Turkey.”

However, Iran — which has provided essential military support for the Assad regime since 2012 — is suspicious of Turkey’s intervention in northern Syria. Tehran has also objected to any Turkish involvement in the fight to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq.