Turkey is going to great lengths to reduce tensions between the U.S. and Iran, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday following the recent killing of a top Iranian commander in a U.S. drone strike in the Iraqi capital.
"Turkey always stands against foreign intervention and regards the recent U.S. attack in Baghdad with this same understanding," Erdogan said in a televised interview.
He added that despite all efforts and international initiatives, it has not been possible for U.S.-Iran tensions to be resolved.
"We had a conversation with [U.S. President Donald] Trump that evening, and 4-5 hours later, this broke out,” said Erdogan, referring to Soleimani’s assassination.
“So the matter was planned. We were shocked to hear the news. I specifically advised him [Trump] not to increase tensions with Iran.”
Erdogan said Iran probably would not remain unresponsive to Soleimani’s killing, adding the move would raise tensions in the region.
Soleimani was killed along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the senior commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi force, and eight others in the drone airstrike early Friday outside Baghdad's airport, marking a dramatic escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have been high since Trump decided in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from a 2015 nuclear pact that world powers struck with Tehran.
Erdogan also said he will host his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Turkey on Jan. 8 and the two leaders will discuss the TurkStream natural gas pipeline as well as regional and other issues.
He said he hoped Turkey and Russia can help achieve a ceasefire in Idlib so there are no more civilian casualties.
He added that Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime has continued intensified air and land attacks on civilian settlements in the de-escalation zone in Idlib.
Erdogan also noted that through Turkey's operations, 8,200 square kilometers (3,166 square miles) of land in Syria had been cleared of terrorism.
Turning to Libya, he pointed out that the Security and Military Cooperation Agreement with the country will support the survival of the legitimate government and its victory as well as safeguard its land and assets.
He noted that Turkey had already started sending troops to Libya.
He said Saudi Arabia's condemnation of the move does not disturb Turkey and that on the contrary, Turkey condemns them.
Erdogan also said the plans of the Greeks and Greek Cypriots to imprison Turkey in the Mediterranean have failed and that some still cannot accept the maritime deal between Turkey and Libya.
Reporting by Dilara Hamit
Writing by Burak Dag