Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has responded to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, who said the people of Iraq and Syria would kick Turkish troops out if Turkey didn’t withdraw, saying Turkey has always been in dialogue with its important neighbor, Iran, “but it doesn’t mean that Turkey will ignore Iran’s efforts to penetrate the region.”
Speaking during a press conference in the presidential palace on Wednesday, Kalın said Iran must appreciate Turkey’s efforts in its battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) instead of criticizing it.
“Iran is an important neighbor to us. We have always been in dialogue with Iran. But it does not mean we will ignore Iran’s efforts to penetrate the region,” he said.
Turkish-Iranian relations have recently been strained over an exchange of words between officials of the two neighboring countries days before the Syrian peace talks in Geneva, which will begin on Thursday.
Iran, along with Turkey and Syria, sponsored Syrian peace talks held in the Kazakh capital of Astana in the past month. However, the Astana talks shattered hope as the latest round of talks last week failed to even adopt a closing statement due to disagreement between regime and opposition sides.
While the Geneva talks have been at the center of international peace efforts since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the Astana talks were led by Russia and Turkey after after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, discussed with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in December 2016 the possibility of holding a meeting in Astana between the warring parties in the Syrian conflict.