Iran warned Turkey on Tuesday against launching another military operation in Syria, just before the leaders of both countries attended a triple summit with the Russian president.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued the warning to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey shortly after he arrived in Iran for the trilateral talks, the supreme leader’s website said. The Iranian leader told Erdogan that a military strike in northern Syria would harm Turkey, Syria and the entire region, the site said.
Iran and Russia have been staunch international allies of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria during more than a decade of civil war, while Turkey has supported armed groups fighting to overthrow Assad and launched raids into northern Syria. Turkey already controls several parts of the territory in Syria along the border between the two countries.
In late May, Erdogan threatened a new military offensive against Kurdish fighters in two cities in northern Syria. He said the offensive would be part of an effort to secure the Turkish border from Kurdish militants and to create a so-called safe zone for the repatriation of some of the millions of refugees who flocked across the border to Turkey during the war.
Terrorism absolutely must be tackled, but a military strike on Syria will only benefit the terrorists message posted to Mr Khamenei’s Twitter account on Tuesday alongside a photo of him meeting the Turkish leader.
In his opening speech at the meeting with the trio, a rebellious Mr Erdogan explicitly asked for support from Russia and Iran for the military incursion into northern Syria. After the meeting, Mr. Erdogan maintained the same position.
“Our fight against terrorist organizations will continue everywhere,” he said after the meeting. “We expect Russia and Iran to support Turkey in this fight.”
The summit in Iran has been seen as an attempt by Mr Putin to strengthen relations with neighboring countries following his decision to invade Ukraine, which has left Russia almost completely isolated. But the exchange revealed tensions between Turkey, Iran and Russia, especially over Syria.
Iran, similarly faced with international isolation imposed by the West because of its nuclear program, has started supplying drones to the Russian military, while Turkey, a member of NATO, has started supplying drones. to Ukraine.
But it was the subject of Syria that came up first.
The United States has warned of Erdogan’s planned operation, saying it would risk further destabilizing the region and also create a new influx of Syrian refugees.
Dana Stroul, a senior Middle East official at the US Department of Defense, said last week that the Biden administration strongly opposes any Turkish operation in northern Syria.
Since coming to power in 2002, Mr Erdogan has mounted several military offensives against Kurdish militants in Turkey and Syria.
Ethnic Kurds make up about a fifth of the Turkish population and have been fighting for autonomy for decades. In Syria, Kurdish groups seized the opportunity presented by the near collapse of the government in Damascus to gain more self-government, which Mr Erdogan vehemently opposed.