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Turkey to boost military cooperation with Iran after army chief’s visit

Baqeri’s trip to Ankara came days ahead of a planned visit by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Image Credit: Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Iran's Chief of Staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri in Ankara, Turkey.
Gulf News

Dubai: Turkey and Iran have agreed to boost military cooperation after talks in Ankara this week between the Iranian armed forces chief of staff and Turkish leaders, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Thursday.

Iran’s military chief General Mohammad Baqeri met Erdogan on Wednesday on a visit Turkish media said was the first to Turkey by an Iranian military chief of staff since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

Erdogan spokesman Ebrahim Kalin described the visit as “fruitful and successful”, adding that talks focused on counter-terrorism, the battle with Daesh, and a joint effort by Iran, Turkey and Russia to stem the fighting in parts of Syria.

“An agreement was reached to hold further high-level visits from now on,” Kalin told a news conference.

“A series of activities will also be held to boost military cooperation.”

Baqeri’s trip to Ankara came days ahead of a planned visit by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Ties between NATO allies Turkey and the United States have been strained by Washington’s support for Kurdish YPG fighters leading the assault on Daesh in the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Turkey says the YPG is indistinguishable from the outlawed Kurdish PKK which has been waging an insurgency in southeast Turkey for more than 30 years. Washington sees it as a vital ally in the fight to defeat Daesh.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Baqeri as saying he had agreed with Turkey to hold joint training courses, and increase counter-terrorism intelligence sharing.

He said Erdogan would visit Iran in the near future.

It also comes as Iraqi Kurds press ahead with their plan to hold a referendum on September 25 on whether to separate from Iraq and form an independent state.

On Wednesday, Turkey expressed its objection to the move.

“In that country [Iraq], which has been through so many problems, a referendum on independence can make the situation even worse,” urkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

“God forbid, it could even bring it to civil war.”

Earlier, Iran warned that it would close its borders if the referendum were to be held.

The US has requested the Kurds to postpone the vote, saying that the referendum would detract from “more urgent priorities” in the region, such as eliminating Daesh.

However, Iraqi Kurds have dismissed such calls and warnings. A Kurdish delegation visited Baghdad earlier this week to discuss the matter.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Head of Foreign Relations, Falah Mustafa Bakir, told Gulf News on Wednesday in an exclusive interview, that no better alternative was offered by any of the opposing parties.

-with inputs from Reuters