Iran and Turkey remain at odds, which was apparent to everyone attending the Munich Security Conference this past weekend. With Turkey sending out an early volley, Iran quickly countered. Iran itself faces a difficult road, as it reclaims a place at the negotiation table with other regional leaders. Still, as Turkey and Saudi Arabia made clear, Iran is not receiving a warm welcome.
On Sunday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed that Iran was “undermining” regional stability through pursuing what he referred to as a “sectarian policy”. This was not the first time these charges had been hurled at Iran, because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mentioned those same claims during his Arab states tour early last week.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeman Bahram Qassemi responded on Monday by stating, “Iran’s patience is not infinite. We hope they act more tactfully and vigilantly, otherwise we will not remain silent.”
The Turkish Ambassador to Tehran, Riza Hakan Tekin, was summoned by Iran’s Foreign Ministry concerning the remarks. The main bones of contention between these two nations seems to center around Syria and the war being fought by foreign-backed militants. Turkey is demanding that Assad resign, while Iran is backing his government.
These neighbors also can’t agree on a safe zone in northern Syria, with Turkey backing the zone and Iran rejecting it, claiming that it would complicate the situation further. The proposed zone would include an area where U.S.-backed Kurdish Peshmerga forces fight terrorist groups.
“The idea is wrong and unacceptable to us as it adds to problems,” said Qassemi. This great divide makes it difficult to see a way forward in Syria, despite peace talks and a ceasefire. The U.S. and other European nations have been reluctant to put forces on the ground in Syria, though many have provided air-support and other aid to the opposition factions.
Addressing the Munich conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on countries to quit “finger pointing”, which was a dig at regional neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He proposed forming a “regional security arrangement” and a “modest regional dialogue forum” to restore peace in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also described Iran as the main sponsor of terror and accused Iran of undermining the stability of the region. Israeli and Saudi representatives called for the international community to set clear “red lines” to halt Iran’s actions. While this anti-Iran front continues, it is unlikely that regional conflicts will cease.