Iran opposes Turkey’s military presence in Syria, Iraq – foreign minister

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said his country opposes the deployment of Turkey’s military inside Syria and Iraq, saying the Turkish government’s approach towards ties with the two countries was misguided.

Turkey has sent thousands of its troops into the northern territories of Syria and Iraq to battle Kurdish militants and to strengthen the Syrian opposition, setting up military bases in both countries despite condemnation from Baghdad and Damascus that it was infringing on their territories.

"We reject the Turkish military presence in Syria and Iraq, and we consider Ankara's policies towards Damascus and Baghdad to be wrong," Zarif told Iran’s state-run Press TV, the Middle East Monitor reported on Monday.

Iran and Turkey’s differences over regional policy are most marked in Syria. Turkey is backing Syria’s opposition in a civil war that began in 2011, while Iran supports the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, supplying militia, funding and military know-how.

Zarif said Iran’s only goal in Syria is the combat terrorism. It attaches that label to all opposition groups.

Turkey, Iran and Russia are leading the Astana process, an initiative to help end the Syrian conflict that began in January 2017. The three countries issued a joint statement in late January calling for compromise between warring factions and underlining their support for a sovereign, independent and united Syria.

Zarif made the remarks on the same day that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani by phone to discuss bilateral cooperation in security and economic affairs.

In his conversation with Rouhani, Erdoğan said that the United States should lift sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme and recent diplomatic developments provided for such an opportunity.