(AFP) – Apr 4, 2012
ANKARA — Turkey's foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador Wednesday over remarks by a top offical in Tehran denouncing an international conference on the Syria crisis held in Istanbul.
The move came as Iran said it no longer wanted Turkey to host nuclear talks, and followed comments made by Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani critical of Ankara for staging the "Friends of Syria" conference.
"We summoned Iranian envoy today to demand an explanation on the remarks," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a press conference, without specifically naming Larijani.
He also said he had contacted Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Tuesday to express Ankara's dismay at the comments that "obviously contradicted the deep-rooted relations" between the two countries.
Salehi said the comments did not reflect official Iranian foreign policy, Davutoglu told reporters, noting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week in Tehran for talks held "in respect and mutual understanding".
However, Iran's about-face on Istanbul as the venue for planned April 13 international talks on its nuclear drive suggests it is annoyed with Turkey over its stance on Syria, the Islamic republic's main ally in the Middle East.
"Taking into account the extremist and illogical position of Turkey on Syria and the recent conference on Syria, Turkey has de facto lost any competence to host the meeting," Aladin Borujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament's foreign affairs commission, said on Iranian television Wednesday.
Turkey, which has called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down to end the year-long bloody strife in Syria, on Sunday hosted a "Friends of Syria" conference which was sympathetic to the opposition and criticised by Tehran.
Larijani had criticised the meeting as a gathering of supporters of Iran's arch-enemy Israel, according to a statement on the parliamentary website, and accused Britain and the United States of trying to destroy Syria from within.
Turkey-Iran ties have soured since Ankara agreed to implement a NATO-led early warning defence system last year, which Iran deems is hostile to the Islamic republic.
Ankara has also joined a US-imposed sanctions push to cut purchases of Iranian oil.
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