Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned comments by an Iranian official who blamed Ankara for the bloodshed in Syria and warned Turkey would be next, calling the comments unacceptable and inappropriate and urging Iran to honor its ties as neighbors, Today's Zaman reported.
The strongly worded statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry came in response to recent threats and statements by Iranian officials regarding Turkey's policies on Syria.
"We strongly condemn statements full of groundless accusations and exceptionally inappropriate threats against our country by some Iranian officials," the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said on Tuesday. "It is unacceptable and irresponsible that Iranian officials in various posts continue to target our country through their statements, although Turkey's principled foreign policy is known to everyone."
Iranian Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Seyed Hassan Firouzabadi warned Turkey on Monday that "it will be its turn" if it continues to "help advance the warmongering policies of the United States in Syria." He was also quoted by the Iranian media as saying, "Al-Saud, Qatar, and Turkey are responsible for the blood being shed on Syrian soil."
Iran has stood by its ally Syria despite growing international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has been among Assad's fiercest critics, demanding he stand down to defuse a 17-month uprising against his rule.
On Monday, a top Iranian official declared that it holds the US, Qatar and Turkey, supporters of opposition groups in Syria, accountable for the lives of Iranian nationals. "We hold the Turkish government responsible for giving shelter to these armed groups and for criminal acts carried out by these groups, such as kidnapping Iranian citizens," stated Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
On Tuesday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani blamed the US and countries in the region -- an indirect reference to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- for the abduction of the Iranians. "In the name of Islam, some of these governments have launched killings, and Iranian pilgrims in Syria have even been treated with violence. These crimes are not something the Iranian nation will disregard," Larijani said in a speech in parliament aired on Iranian television. "The American regime and some countries in the region are responsible for these crimes. And they will receive their response in turn."
The statement came hours before previously unscheduled talks between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi. The talks are expected to focus on Syria and a group of Iranians seized by Syrian opposition forces there, an Iranian diplomat in Ankara said. The statement said Davutoglu will express Ankara's concerns with respect to the recent threatening statements by Iranian officials in talks with Salehi.
Turkey recalled its "principled position" in the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West, in which it vetoed the fourth round of sanctions against Iran in the United Nations Security Council in 2010. It added that, as a neighboring country, Iran should have understood that Turkey is acting based on its own goals and principles in its foreign policy.
In an apparent reference to Iran's steadfast support for the Syrian regime, Turkey said everyone knows who, inside and outside Syria, is responsible for the human tragedy caused by the Syrian regime. "They will be called to account by history and human conscience," the statement said.
The statement also noted that Turkey calls on Iranian officials to end "baseless statements" against Turkey and invited them to act in line with the spirit of neighborly relations.
Salehi told reporters in Ankara upon his arrival that he was "not here to discuss the statements of officials" and declined to comment on the Iranian general's statement on Turkey. He said many statements are made against Iran everywhere, including in Turkey.
Following the talks, sources said Davutoglu expressed Ankara's concerns over the recent statements Iranian officials made and told his Iranian counterpart that Turkey cannot be described as a responsible country for the Syrian violence and that these kind of statements are "unacceptable."
The sources added that Salehi told Davutoglu that Turkey should only rely on official statements and that he will convey Ankara's message to the Iranian administration.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called comments by Firouzabadi this week blaming Turkey for the bloodshed in Syria "regrettable" and denied his country has meddled in Syrian affairs.
"The statement by Iran's chief of general staff on a website belonging to the Revolutionary Guards that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are responsible for the bloody developments in Syria is worrying and regrettable," Erdogan told members of his party.
Erdogan also sought to remind Tehran he had been one of its few defenders amid Western pressure to boycott Iran over its nuclear program, which the United States and others believe is aimed at making an atomic bomb, despite Iran's denials.
"When no one else was by its side, Turkey was the country that stood by Iran, despite everything. Turkey was also the country that defended (its right to) nuclear energy," he said.
"But on Syria, once again I ask the Iranians: Does defending a regime that kills its brothers, and I think it has reached 25,000 by now, suit our values, our beliefs?" Erdogan stressed.