MESOP : THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION – Will Turkey Cooperate with Tehran Over Syria?

August 13 – Iran is proclaiming a breakthrough in its strategy over the Syrian crisis, moving towards cooperation with Turkey. Tehran and Ankara have been on opposite sides since Syria’s uprising began in March 2011. Turkey has supported the Syrian opposition and rebels, while Iran’s economic and military aid has been essential to the survival of the Assad regime. However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declared on Friday, after meeting Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara that “important views are shared between Turkey and Iran on Syria”. These included protecting “Syria’s territorial integrity” and ensuring “that the Syrian people should decide their own future”.

Zarif pointed to the significance of a reconciliation between Turkey and Russia — the leading ally of the Assad regime — with a meeting between leaders Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier in the week.

While holding up a new Iranian-Russian-Turkish relationship over Syria, Zarif indicated that some work remains: “We will continue negotiations despite differences.”

But the Foreign Minister highlighted Tehran’s strategic push, with loud support for Erdoğan after a failed July 15 attempt to overthrow the President: “[Iran] believes the era of bullying and coups is over….That’s why all the Iranian officials…condemned the coup.”

Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu echoed Zarif’s line that Turkey and Iran “would strengthen cooperation for a lasting peace in Syria”. He referred to differences in their views but said, “We believe that Iran can have a constructive role in Syria.”

While the Islamic Republic may be hoping for a Turkish break with the Syrian opposition and rebels, Ankara may be looking for a different outcome with an assurance of President Assad’s departure and a resumption of talks for a transitional governing authority. Despite its reconciliation with Russia, Ankara has reportedly supplied rebels during an offensive that has shifted the balance of power in the fight for Syria’s largest city Aleppo.