Turkey slams Iran on eve of Salehi’s visit
ANKARA / DAMASCUS
DHA photoTurkish Foreign Ministry strongly condemned comments by the top Iranian army officer blaming Ankara for the bloodshed in Syria and warning Turkey it would be next, as baseless and inappropriate, on the eve of Iranian foreign minister’s snap visit to Ankara for talks on 48 of its citizens taken hostage in Syria.
“We strongly condemn statements of baseless accusations and inappropriate threats against our country by some Iranian officials,” Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said. “Turkey’s foreign policy acts in the guidance of its own goals and principles and it has a big state tradition,” the ministry said, adding that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was set to convey to his Iranian counterpart later today to Turkey’s unease over the Iranian officials’ remarks.
Turkey will be next in line for violence after Syria if it continues to work on behalf of Western interests, Iranian Chief of General Staff Hasan Firuzabadi has said. Ankara is following the Western lead in the region, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and is responsible for the bloodshed in the Arab republic, Firuzabadi said. “If these countries continue with their existent approach to Syria, they should know that Turkey and the others will be next in line,” Firuzabadi said. Kazem Jalali, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, had previously said that “Turkey and those who support and arm terrorists [in Syria]” were responsible for the safety of Iranians kidnapped in Syria.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was to pay a snap visit to Ankara for talks on 48 of its citizens taken hostage in Syria, where a Syrian rebel group said that three of them had been killed by shelling.
The Iranian foreign minister conveyed on late Aug. 6 that he wanted to visit Turkey for talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu, a Turkish diplomat told Hürriyet Daily News. The Syrian crisis and the abducted pilgrims would be on the agenda of Salehi, an Iranian embassy official said.
The visit came as Saeed Jalili, a top aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in Damascus. Jalil has told al-Assad that Syria is part of a vital regional alliance that Tehran will not allow to be broken. During talks in Damascus, Jalili said Syria was an essential part of an “axis of resistance.” Jalili’s visit came a day after wrapping a trip to neighboring Lebanon.
In the meantime, relatives of 11 Lebanese pilgrims who were abducted in Syria by rebels in May near Aleppo, held demostration in front of the Turkish Embassy in Beirut yesterday. The group asked Turkey to take “more serious” initiatives to find the pilgrims. Turkey has informed the president of Lebanon that 11 pilgrims are alive and in good health late on July. Family’s spokesman Abbas Zabi said Turks will be ‘guests’ if the problem will not be resolved.
“Considering that the Free Syrian Army, which claims to have abducted the Iranian pilgrims, is backed by Turkey, the visit by the foreign minister aims to warn and remind the Ankara government of its responsibilities in this matter,” the ministry said.
In a phone conversation on late Aug. 5, Salehi asked Davutoğlu for assitance to rescue 48 Iranian pilgrims. Yet, Turkish officials are pessimistic, since the pilgrims were abducted in Damascus, where Turkey even does not operate its embassy at the moment.
The meetings came as Iran revealed its plans to host a meeting of regional and other countries that have “realistic stances” on Syria on Aug. 9 to find ways to resolve the country’s crisis, the official IRNA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as saying on Aug. 6. Davutoğlu also met with representatives of Syrian Turkmen yesterday.