Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday lashed out at Iran, accusing it of trying to dominate the Middle East and saying its efforts have begun annoying Ankara.
The comments, quoted by Reuters, came hours after Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional allies launched a military operation in Yemen against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels threatening the government there.
Turkey said it supports the Saudi-led military operation against the rebels in Yemen and called on the militia group and its “foreign supporters” to abandon acts which threaten peace and security in the region.
“Iran is trying to dominate the region,” said Erdogan, who is due to visit Tehran in early April, according to Reuters.
“Could this be allowed? This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this,” he added in a press conference.
Warplanes from Saudi Arabia and Arab allies struck at Houthi forces in Yemen, who have taken over much of the country in their campaign to oust President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The Saudi-led intervention marked a major escalation of the Yemen crisis, in which Shiite Muslim Iran supports the Shiite Houthis, and Sunni Muslim monarchies in the Gulf back Hadi and his fellow Sunni loyalists in Yemen’s south.
Erdogan said the conflict has evolved into a sectarian one and urged Iran to withdraw. “Iran has to change its view. It has to withdraw any forces, whatever it has in Yemen, as well as Syria and Iraq and respect their territorial integrity,” he was quoted as having said.
Erdogan’s plans to visit Iran had not changed, his spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told journalists earlier on Thursday without giving a specific date.
Earlier Thursday, Iran threatened that Saudi Arabia’s foray into Yemen would end up costing it dearly.
The Saudi “aggression,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry, would “complicate the crisis in the country and kill opportunities for peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Arab country. The smoke of the war in Yemen will reach the eyes of the Saudis.”