Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has directed fresh criticism against neighboring Iran as a rift deepens between the countries over Syria, accusing Tehran of being “dishonest.”
Turkey and Iran have long supported opposite warring sides in Syria, with the situation recently culminating in an open exchange of accusations between the two neighbors. Ankara, once a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has become his staunchest opponent, slamming his regime's tactics to suppress opposition and supporting the opposition groups seeking his overthrow. Iran, on the other hand, has stood by Assad despite growing international criticism of his regime.
Tehran blamed Ankara, along with other opposition supporters Saudi Arabia and Qatar, after 48 Iranians were abducted in Damascus by anti-Assad forces over the weekend. Iranian Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi warned Turkey on Monday that “it will be [Turkey's] turn” if the country continues to “help advance the warmongering policies of the United States in Syria,” and said, “Al-Saud [Saudi Arabia], Qatar and Turkey are responsible for the blood being shed on Syrian soil.”
Davutoğlu said Iranian officials' attempts to put the blame for the violence on Turkey were “disturbing.”
“It is not possible to accept or tolerate this [accusation],” Davutoğlu told a group of reporters en route to Myanmar on Wednesday. “Disagreements are understandable but if you support a regime that is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and then threaten Turkey, this has nothing to do with honesty or sincerity.”
The foreign minister said he had discussed this issue with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, who arrived in Ankara on Tuesday in a surprise visit mainly to seek Turkish help to secure the release of the 48 abducted Iranians.
“If we are looking for someone to blame for the bloodshed in Syria, it is the Syrian regime and those who support it,” said Davutoğlu.
Speaking to reporters upon his arrival in Ankara, Salehi sidestepped questions about Firouzabadi's statement, saying there have been statements made in both Iran and Turkey but that he was not in Ankara to discuss them.
Mottaki joins chorus of Turkey critics
Firouzabadi's remarks, preceded by a series of harsh statements from other Iranian officials following the abduction of the Iranians, drew an angry protest from Ankara, which condemned the statements as “groundless and inappropriate” in a Foreign Ministry statement released only hours before Salehi's arrival on Tuesday.
But Iranian criticism targeting Turkey continued, this time with former Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who was quoted on Thursday as saying that Turkish policy was “hostile” towards Syria and other countries in the region.
Mottaki, speaking at an iftar (fast-breaking) dinner, said Turkey has undone all its achievements over the last decade with its Syria policy and further alleged that Turkey has been contracted to pursue US goals in Syria, the private NTV channel reported. According to Mottaki, Ankara changed its previously friendly policy towards Syria because it feared US reaction for non-compliance.
In remarks published on Thursday, Salehi, Mottaki's successor, expressed regret over the top Iranian general's remarks, saying the Iranian government cannot feel content with statements that could strain ties with Turkey.
But he warned that a power vacuum in Syria could result in the spread of extremist forces in the region. “Look at Afghanistan. The same kind of terrorism is now taking root right next to Europe. Jihadist radicals are gaining ground in the region,” Salehi said in an interview with Turkish daily Cumhuriyet.