Turkey’s Erdogan Plans Iran Visit, Watches Yemen Developments
ISTANBUL/DUBAI— Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he still plans to visit Iran next week, but is watching the crisis in Yemen, which has heightened diplomatic tensions between Ankara and Tehran.
Canceling the trip would mark a further deterioration in relations between the two neighbors, who are at odds over the conflict in Syria and the crisis in Yemen, where Ankara supports a Saudi Arabian-led operation against Iran-backed Houthi forces.
“For the moment we are sticking to our Iranian program unchanged, but we are monitoring Yemen,” Erdogan told a news conference in Istanbul. “Developments in Yemen are important. There could be steps that necessitate us making every kind of decision.”
Erdogan accused Iran last week of trying to dominate the Middle East and said its efforts had begun to annoy Turkey.
He called on it to withdraw its forces from Yemen and stop supporting the Shi’ite Houthi militia.
Iran, which denies helping the Houthis militarily, summoned Turkey’s envoy to Tehran to complain about Erdogan’s comments. Iranian officials and lawmakers have since called on the government to cancel his visit planned for April 7.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also publicly rebuffed Erdogan’s accusations and accused him of pursuing policies harmful to the region.
However, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi was reported as saying on Sunday that there had been no change to Erdogan’s visit.
Warplanes struck the Yemeni capital of Sana’a overnight, residents said, the fifth day of a campaign by Saudi-led forces against the Houthi fighters who are battling to oust Yemen’s Sunni Muslim president.