MESOP FORECAST : Tehran’s Rift With Turkey Widens

February 25 – 2017 – Co-operation turns to tension between Iran and Turkey over the Syrian conflict

Iran’s recent rift with Turkey widened on Friday, as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif challenged his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.In an interview with the Republican Guards’ Fars News, Zarif said that Turkish officials are entangled in the consequences of their “past mistakes” and are now attempting to play a blame game by making accusations against Iran.“Unfortunately, the wrong policies of the Turkish government in the past have created a situation that they have to project the blame; it is a regret that they do so,” Zarif said. Iran has been provoked by a February 19 speech by Cavusoglu, at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, deriding Iran’s “sectarian policy” in the region through interventions and support of groups destabilizing the area. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the Islamic Republic of promoting “Persian nationalism”.

Iran had been hoping for political and economic advances through renewed ties with Ankara, including essential trade and investment for recovery after the July 2015 nuclear deal and co-operation alongside Russia over the Syrian conflict.

However, Syria has been the catalyst for the latest dispute. Iran is concerned about Turkey’s military intervention alongside rebels in northern Syria. The offensive has taken much of Aleppo Province from the Islamic State since last August, including the city of al-Bab earlier this week.Tensions rose in recent weeks with differences over the political course. Turkey wants talks between the regime and Syrian opposition to focus on a substantial ceasefire. Iran is supporting Russia’s attempt for a new constitution and arrangements that confirm President Assad’s stay in power.

Zarif said on Friday, “We hope that regional countries would fully comprehend the need for cooperation…and that such cooperation would turn into the topic of the day instead of such improper remarks,” the Iranian foreign minister said dismissively, referring to the anti-Iran comments by the Turkish officials.

Iran has also summoned the Turkish ambassador for a diplomatic rebuke over the remarks by Cavusoglu and Erdogan, and the Foreign Ministry had warned of a “ceiling to patience” with Ankara.