International

Erdogan still plans Iran visit despite 'domination' row

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday said he still planned to visit Iran this month despite a war of words with Tehran over the Yemen crisis and his claims that the Islamic republic was trying to dominate the region.

Majority Sunni Muslim Turkey has said it supports the Saudi-led operation against Iran-allied Huthi Shiite rebels in Yemen to restore order in the country.

Meanwhile, Erdogan on Thursday launched his strongest attack yet on Iran, who he accused of trying to dominate the region, prompting an angry reaction from Tehran.

“We are keeping the programme of our visit (to Iran) but we are watching developments in Yemen,” Erdogan told reporters at Ankara airport before heading on a visit to Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania.

“The developments in Yemen are for us very, very important. All sorts of steps could be taken. But now there is no talk of changing” the programme, he said.

Turkey is anxiously watching the growth of Iran’s influence in Iraq and across the Middle East as Tehran also talks with the US and world powers on a nuclear deal.

Erdogan said on Thursday: “Iran is deploying all its efforts to dominate the region. How can that be tolerated?”

“Iran must change its mentality. We are running out of patience with the actions of Iran in the region. These actions have upset the Saudis as well as the (other) Gulf states.”

In the absence of its ambassador, Turkey’s charge d’affaires was “invited” to respond to “the Islamic republic’s objection and regret over Erdogan’s inappropriate and unusual comments,” the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The row with Shiite Iran comes amid signs of growing Turkish ties with fellow Sunni Muslim kingpin Saudi Arabia.

Erdogan’s relations with Saudi Arabia chilled over Riyadh’s role in the 2013 ousting of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Ankara.

However Erdogan in late February made the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and held talks with new King Salman, in what observers saw as a cautious rapprochement. -AFP

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