News / Middle East

Turkey, Iran Concerned About Syria Sectarian Violence

Mohammad, a 13 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army, aims his weapon as he takes cover inside a room in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district, Oct. 28, 2013.
Mohammad, a 13 year-old fighter from the Free Syrian Army, aims his weapon as he takes cover inside a room in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district, Oct. 28, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Turkey and Iran said on Friday they had common concerns about the increasingly sectarian nature of Syria's civil war, signalling a thaw in a key Middle Eastern relationship strained by stark differences over the conflict.

Iran has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the 32-month-old uprising against him, while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting the opposition and giving refuge to rebel fighters.

But the election in June of President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who says he wants to thaw Iran's icy relations with the West, and shared concern over the rise of al-Qaida in Syria, have spurred hopes of a rapprochement.

"Sitting here together with the Iranian foreign minister you can be sure we will be working together to fight these types of scenarios which aim to see a sectarian conflict,'' Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a conference in Istanbul.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who held talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Istanbul and was due to meet Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan later in Ankara, echoed the comments, saying that sectarian unrest posed an even greater risk than the use of chemical weapons.

"I believe sectarian conflict is even a greater threat and it is not confined to one region,'' Zarif said.

"If the flames of sectarianism rage in the Middle East, you will see the results in the streets of London, New York, Rome and Madrid,'' he told the conference.

While deep divisions remain between Ankara and Tehran over the conflict in Syria, particularly over the role of Assad in any transitional government, diplomats and government officials say both sides want to mend a relationship which could be key to wider diplomatic efforts towards a solution.

"Both Iran and Turkey are at a point where they think they can work together on Syria,'' a senior Turkish official said.

"Both countries believe the situation needs an urgent solution. But the big question is how,'' he told Reuters.

Geneva 2

A long-delayed international peace conference in Geneva, first proposed in May, would be high on the agenda in Zarif's conversations with Erdogan, government sources said.

Arab and Western officials told Reuters this week that international powers were unlikely to meet their goal of convening the "Geneva 2'' talks later this month, largely due to differences over who will represent the opposition.

Turkey has long argued that Iran and Iraq, another neighbor with whom Ankara has been trying to mend fences, should be involved in the talks if they are to be credible.

Tehran's desire to participate in a June 2012 meeting on Syria hosted by the United Nations in Geneva was a major bone of contention between Washington and Moscow, Assad's key ally.

"For Geneva 2 to be meaningful there must be a clear political strategy and there must be Russia and Iran at the table. Both of them must be included and so must Iraq,'' a source close to the Turkish government said.

With al-Qaida-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of northern Syria near Turkey's border in recent weeks, pressure for a resolution has been mounting.

"Turkey and Iran's positions have moved closer, because I think Turkey also has realised the threat of these radical elements on its border,'' a regional diplomatic source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are still disagreements, but I think these disagreements can and must be overcome because both Turkey and Iran are key to the stability of the region.''

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid