ISTANBUL/TEHRAN - Iran's foreign minister has told Turkey that threats by Iranian political and military figures to strike Turkish missile defenses if attacked do not represent official policy.
Ties between Turkey and Iran have been sorely tested by an uprising in Syria and Turkey's involvement in NATO's missile shield, which Tehran sees as a US ploy to protect Israel.
Iranian FM warns NATO against intervening in Syria
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu phoned his Iranian counterpart to express unease over recent threats to target Turkey if Iran comes under attack, his ministry said in a statement.
"We have made the necessary warning
to those who make irresponsible and senseless statements," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Turkey's state-run Anatolian agency.
"The official view of the Islamic Republic of Iran towards Turkey is based on deep brotherhood and friendship," he said.
Davutoglu, asked later by a reporter in parliament whether Salehi's comments had reduced tensions, said there had never been tension:
"We thank him for his statement. Turkish-Iranian friendship is ancient. It is eternal and nobody can influence it."
Last week, Iranian lawmaker Hossein Ibrahimi said Iran could target Turkey in a future conflict due to its hosting of the NATO defenses, which Iran fears could neuter the missiles it might use to strike Israel and US forces in the region if it was attacked.
"Targeting the missile defense shield on Turkish territory would be a certain and natural reaction in the event of any threat emanating from that country," Ibrahimi was quoted as saying in the December 8 edition of the daily Sharq
Turkey's Foreign Ministry said Salehi had told Davutoglu this was "a personal view and was not in line with the government's position."Internal Iranian disagreement over Turkey
However, last month the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Amir Ali
Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division, as
saying: "We are ready to attack NATO's missile shield in Turkey if we
face a threat."
The fact that Salehi has had to weigh in to calm matters points not only
to tensions with Turkey but also to policy divisions within Iran's
conservative ruling elite.
The storming of the British embassy by radical youths last month was
criticized by Salehi, while parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a rival of
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appeared to support the action, which
further soured relations with Europe.
Close advisers to Khamenei have been harshly critical of the secular
model of Islamic democracy embodied by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip
Khamenei's military adviser said in October that Turkey appeared to be
doing Washington's bidding by turning against Syrian President Bashar
Assad, Iran's main ally in the region, and called Erdogan's push for
secularism in the Arab world "unexpected and unimaginable".
On Wednesday Hassan Rohani, an influential member of the state Expediency Council, was quoted as saying in the daily Farhang-e Ashti
that "Turkey is going beyond the limit (in its policy) towards Syria and in supporting the Syrian opposition".
A senior cleric said Turkey's opposition to Assad was playing into a Western plot to regain dominance in the region.
"They (the West) have begun with Syria and will then go to Lebanon and
Iraq, and will then come to us which, of course, will not succeed,"
Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi told the semi-official FARS news
"America, Israel and Arab countries have joined hands to begin their
plot with Syria and in the midst of this, Turkish statesmen are adding
fuel to the fire," he said.