General Staff of the Armed Forces of Iran, Mohammad Bagheri (C) is welcomed by his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar (L) at Turkish General Staff headquarters, with a military ceremony during his official visit in Ankara, Turkey on August 15, 2017. Photo: AA/Mehmet Ali Özcan
ANKARA, Turkey – Chief of Staff of the Iranian military has met with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara to discuss “developments” in the region, border security, and terrorism, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported.
General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri is on a three-day visit to Turkey during which he is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli , the agency added.
The visit is on the invitation of Turkey.
Bagheri said that the visit at this moment in time was “necessary” for the two countries to discuss issues that affect their countries and the region.
“It has been some time that we did not have such visits. But considering the developments in the region and issues related to the security of the two countries, the security of the borders, and countering terrorism, it has become necessary to make this visit,” IRNA quoted the Iranian general as saying.
Turkey’s state-run media confirmed that Bagheri met with his counterpart Hulusi Akar, citing an unnamed source at the Turkish military, without disclosing the content of their discussion.
The two countries have been supporting opposing sides in the more than six year Syrian civil war, with Iran supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its allied militia in their fight against Turkish backed Syrian rebels, including the Free Syrian Army.
Turkey has become increasingly worried about the presence of the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) on its borders with Syria. Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and therefore a terrorist organization. The YPG denies any links between it and the PKK that has staged a more than three decades’ long guerrilla war against the Turkish state aimed at achieving greater rights for the Kurdish population in Turkey.
Iran welcomed the Turkish move, saying it will curtail illegal border trade worth an estimated $2 billion.
Iran and Turkey, who each have significant Kurdish populations, have said separately that they oppose the Kurdistan Region’s plans to hold an independence referendum on September 25.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, Ibrahim Rahimpour, met with his Turkish counterpart, Umit Yalcin, in Ankara on Tuesday.
Rahimpour told Iranian media that they have discussed various issues, mainly developments in both Iraq and Syria.
He said both sides agree that the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria should be preserved.
Bekir Bozdağ, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, told reporters on Tuesday that the referendum in Kurdistan would not “serve the stability” in the region, as it is against the Iraqi constitution and will not be recognized by Baghdad.
He said that in addition to Turkey, the United States and Iran also oppose the vote and called on Erbil to “reconsider” the decision.