In the latest episode of escalating diplomatic tension between Tehran and Ankara, Iran’s foreign minister today blasted latest statements by Turkish officials accusing Iran of destabilizing the Middle East and fueling sectarian divide in the region. “Unfortunately, wrong policies of the Turkish government in the past have created a situation that they are compelled to play blame game,” Mohammad Javad Zarif with the Fars News Agency, an outlet affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.).
Comment: The latest fiery exchanges between Tehran and Ankara began after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a week-long trip to the Gulf region and held talks with Sunni Arab leaders to find ways to resolve regional conflicts and push back against Iran’s expansionist regional agenda. On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish ambassador to Tehran Raza Hakan Tekin to protest Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s remarks at the Munich Security Conference in which he that “Iran wants to make Syria and Iraq Shiite.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also accused Iran of promoting “” that is threatening to the Middle Eastern stability.
Zarif’s harsh criticism of Turkey and the rising war of words between leaders of the two countries come at a critical time as U.N.-sponsored peace talks are being held in Geneva to find a political solution to end the six-year Syrian civil war. Turkey and Iran have been supporting the opposing sides of the Syrian conflict and their cooperation is deemed crucial to preserving the fragile ceasefire in the country as well as to ensuring the success of any potential political settlement. But given that Tehran has made it clear that it will maintain its military presence in Syria to support the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad, tension between Iran and Turkey - as well as with other regional Sunni states - will most likely intensify in the future.