Rouhani meets Erdogan, stresses territorial integrity of regional countries

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet on the sidelines of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO)’s 13th plenary session in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 1 March 2017. (Photos by president.ir)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday stressed the importance of regional countries’ territorial integrity, especially Iraq and Syria.

The two presidents met at the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO)’s 13th plenary session in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, following a war of words between Ankara and Tehran.

According to Press TV the Iranian president told Erdogan, “The Islamic Republic of Iran stresses respect for the territorial integrity of regional countries and is against any violation of territorial integrity in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq.”

The words are thought to have been a chiding comment on the continued presence of Turkish troops in Iraq and Syria despite protestations by the respective governments of both states.

Turkey has also condemned Iran for its support of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad government and the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forces and Iran-backed Hezbollah fighting in Syria.

During a recent visit to Bahrein Turkish President Erdogan criticised Tehran saying, “Some people want both Iraq and Syria to be divided. There are some that are working hard to divide Iraq. There is a Persian nationalism at work there. And this Persian nationalism is trying to divide the country. We need to block this effort.”

However the two leaders also pledged to continue working together to settle regional woes and fight terror.

The Iranian president said ties in the energy, transportation and banking sectors could be developed with joint ventures. Erdogan said Turkey embraced the promotion of ties with Iran.

The two countries have had strained relations since the age of Empires. Turkey’s majority Sunni population and political line is contradicted by Iran’s Shia majority population and politics. Ankara’s NATO-US alliance and Iran’s strategic unity with Russia has also been a source of conflict, especially since the beginning of the Syria war. However Ankara’s recent rapprochement with Moscow and Turkey’s dependence on forming more cordial ties with regional allies has meant fluctuating relations with Tehran. Both countries also have large Kurdish populations and unsettled ‘Kurdish issues’ and have collaborated in the past to fight rebel movements.