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.
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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid