Ankara: The presidents of Turkey and Iran on Tuesday vowed to press on with their alliance alongside Russia over Syria, the Turkish presidency said, after Ankara backed strikes by the US and its allies against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia and Iran are the key allies of Assad and their military intervention in Syria is widely seen as helping him stay in power and tipping the balance in the civil war.
But Moscow and Tehran have over the last months worked increasingly closely with Ankara — which has throughout the seven-year war called for Assad’s ouster — in seeking to find a solution to the conflict.
In an interview with French television, French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that the weekend air strikes against Syrian government targets had succeeded in engineering a split in the Russia-Turkey alliance.
But a Turkish presidential source said, following telephone talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, that the two sides had vowed the alliance must continue.
“The two leaders emphasised the importance of continuing the joint efforts of Turkey, Iran and Russia… to protect Syrian territorial integrity and find a lasting, peaceful solution to the crisis,” said the source.
Erdogan on Saturday had welcomed the air strikes — carried out by the US, Britain and France — which he described as “appropriate” following an alleged chemical attack that the West blames on Assad but Moscow contends was staged.
In his talks with Rouhani, Erdogan said that Turkey’s opposition to the use of chemical weapons was “more than clear” and warned against opening the way to an “escalation of tensions”.
Ankara has been a NATO member since 1952 and its allies have become wary of the flourishing friendship between Ankara and Moscow.
Earlier this month, Erdogan hosted a summit on Syria with Iran and Russia in Ankara, the second such meeting after trilateral talks in November in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Another such summit is planned in Tehran at a date yet to be confirmed.
Turkey’s Western allies are closely watching its deal to buy S-400 air defence systems from Russia which some officials have warned may not be compatible with Western technology.