| 29 May 2024, Wednesday |

Zarif tries to defuse tensions with Turkey

ISTANBUL: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met Turkish officials in Istanbul on Friday as the two regional powers tried to move past tensions sparked by the deaths of Turkish captives in Iraq.

Zarif and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed Syria and the ongoing Afghan peace talks as well as trade and the fight against terror, the two counties’ foreign ministries said in separate statements.

Turkey’s spy chief Hakan Fidan also attended the meeting. Zarif was expected to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul later in the day.

Turkey and Iran, at odds over regional issues including Syria, became entangled in a diplomatic spat in February over Ankara’s military operations against Kurdish militants in Iraq.

Turkey accused Kurdish militants of killing 12 Turks and an Iraqi they were holding hostage in northern Iraq.

The Kurdish militants said the 13 were killed by Turkish bombs during a failed rescue operation launched by Ankara.

The incident prompted Iran’s envoy to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, to warn that Turkish forces should not “pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil,” where Iran’s influence is strong.

The incident prompted Turkey and Iran to each summon the other’s ambassador.

Both Ankara and Tehran have carried out operations against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, and are vying for influence in the war-torn country.

Militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who have fought an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, are blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

Zarif last visited Istanbul on January 29, when Turkey urged the United States to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement that saw Washington lift some sanctions on Tehran in exchange for Iran limiting its ambitions to develop a bomb.