President Erdoğan receives Iranian chief of staff with regional issues on the table

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 17.08.2017 00:35

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received Iranian Chief of Staff Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri yesterday, as part of the latter's three-day visit to Ankara to seek common ground on regional issues.

So far, Bagheri has visited his Turkish counterpart Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli.

In his meeting with President Erdoğan, Gen. Bagheri was reported to have discussed the Syrian crisis, regional issues and bilateral relations.

Iran's official IRNA news agency previously described the visit as unprecedented in the history of Iranian-Turkish bilateral relations.

"This trip was necessary for better consultation and cooperation on various military and regional issues," Bagheri said in a statement to state Iranian broadcaster IRIB, citing border security and the fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile, senior diplomatic sources in Ankara told Daily Sabah that such a high-level visit by an Iranian military representative is a milestone in bilateral relations.

Stressing that a visit by the Iranian chief of staff would not have taken place if both sides had not shown signs of willingness to cooperate and strike deals in the region, the sources said that firm steps would be taken.

Even though the countries have been lending support to different sides in the Syrian civil war, with Ankara backing moderate opposition groups, such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), while Tehran backs Bashar Assad in his efforts to cling to power, they initiated the Astana talks along with Russia in late 2016 to end the destructive, six-year civil war.

The two countries also vehemently reject the idea of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) set to hold an independence referendum on Sept. 25.

"Iran's principal position is to support the territorial integrity of Iraq," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.

Ankara's response has been the same.

"We would like Iraq to continue as a state for all Iraqis. As such, we do not consider it right to create a new problem area in a region that already has many problems. We think that this decision is irresponsible," Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said in early June.

Commander of Iranian Land Forces Gen. Muhammad Hakpour, who is the highest-ranking general in charge of the security of Iranian borders, is accompanying Gen. Bagheri on his visit. His presence is interpreted by some as the two countries' joint efforts to ensure border security.

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