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As ties between two prominent actors in the Middle East, Sunni Turkey and Shia Iran, are full of ups and downs, the two neighbors are again in war of words as their relations are getting strained after the Turkish president criticized Tehran of pursuing “Persian nationalism” in the region.

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Recently, President Erdogan visited Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in a bid to boost political and economic relations, and Ankara signed a defense cooperation agreement with Sunni Riyadh, a move that irks its regional rival Tehran.

Business24

On top of that, in a speech in Bahrain, the Turkish president accused Tehran of meddling Iraq and Syria for, and promoting “Persian nationalism.”

“Some people want both Iraq and Syria to be divided. There are some that are working hard to divide Iraq. There is a secretariat struggle, a Persian nationalism at work there. This Persian nationalism is trying to divide the country. We need to block this effort,” Erdogan said on Feb. 14.

In response to the Turkish president’s remarks, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, “among regional leaders, no one more so than Mr. Erdogan is aware of Iran’s constructive role in the region, especially in Iraq.”

“It is concerning that terrorist organizations in the region are being supported directly or indirectly to destabilize neighboring countries,” said the statement on Feb. 15 without direct reference to Turkey.

In Munich Security Conference last weekend, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu joined the anti-Iran rhetoric of Israeli and Saudi Arabian ministers who signaled that they would cooperate with the new Trump administration in the region against Tehran.

In a speech at the conference, Cavusoglu accused Tehran over “sectarian policies” in the region.

The Turkish minister suggested that some of the actions of Iran had harmed the stability in the region. “Iran wants Syria and Iraq to make Shia,” he said.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim met on the sidelines of the Munich Conference, the first high level meeting between the two NATO allies since new Trump administration.

“Both leaders agreed that they would not allow Iran to undermine stability in the region,” according to a press note provided by the White House.

Iran’s reaction was not delayed. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on Monday that the Turkish minister’s remarks were”not constructive.”
His country was “patient,” but this patience has “limits,” the spokesperson said.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry also summoned Turkish ambassador in Tehran Hakan Tekin on Monday over Turkish leadership’s remarks.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday responded saying that Tehran should “revise its regional policies and take constructive steps, rather than criticizing countries that voice criticism of Iran.”

Turkey and Iran are political and economic partners, but are also in power struggle in the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia waging their political and military struggles along Shiite-Sunni sectarian lines. They have differences particularly on current political and military situation in Syria and Iraq.

In Iraq, Iran backed Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Units and Shia politicians have been highly critical of Turkey’s military presence in north of the country.

Tehran opposes Turkey’s military incursion into the Syrian territory suggesting it will only complicate the prospect to end the bloody war.

Turkey is a long standing staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and lends support to the rebel groups since Syria was plunged into chaos in 2011, arguing al-Assad had lost his legitimacy to rule.

Iran, along with Russia, stands by Assad and provides military backing to the government forces.

Despite disagreements, two countries are also part of a recent cease-fire deal in Syria which is regarded as first step for political talks to end six years of war.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus on Monday tuned down the criticism and said “Iran and Turkey are friendly nations.”

“There can be differences in views from time to time, but there can’t be animosity because of comments,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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