Zakho, Iraqi Kurdistan – On Tuesday, Iran accused Turkey of prolonging the conflict in neighboring Syria, by insisting on overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad, as well as supporting “terrorist groups” in Syria, Iranian local media reported.
Tehran and Ankara back opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. The Turkish support to Syrian anti-Assad rebel forces is aimed to oust Iran’s closest ally in the region.
According to reports, Turkey has been a main transit point for foreign militants crossing into Syria to fight against the Assad regime, while Iran has supported the Syrian president both militarily and politically.
“Ankara’s interference in Syrian internal affairs has unfortunately resulted in prolonging the war and extensive deaths of innocent Syrian civilians,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told IRNA.
“The crisis in Syria could have ended three years ago if Turkish officials stopped demanding regime change and supporting terrorist groups in Syria,” the official said.
The comments appeared to be a response to remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was quoted by Turkish media accusing Iran of playing on Syria’s sectarian divisions.
“When we have bilateral meetings with Iran, they agree on solving this issue together. When it comes to action, unfortunately, they have their own way of working,” Erdogan told Hurriyet newspaper on Monday.
The Syrian conflict has undermined what were once close ties between Iranian officials and Erdogan, whose Syria policy has put him at odds with Iran, Russia and, at times, the United States.
NATO-member Turkey has refused to join the U.S.-led military coalition against the ISIL unless it also confronts Assad, a demand that Washington, which flies air missions over Syria without objection from Damascus, has so far rejected.
Reporting by: Kaniwar Malla
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