April 3, 2015 / 11:08 AM / 3 years ago

Turkey wants political solution in Yemen, but supports Saudi-led operation

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Turkey wants a political solution to the crisis in Yemen but has offered support to a Saudi-led coalition that has carried out air strikes against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.

Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu is seen in Strasbourg, January 25, 2010. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/Files

Turkey’s support for the Saudi-led operation - in words if not action - puts it at odds with Iran. President Tayyip Erdogan last week accused Tehran of seeking to “dominate” the Middle East and called on it to stop supporting the Houthis.

“Turkey announced that we can give logistics support and intelligence support (to the Saudi-led operation), but we are for political solutions,” Cavusoglu told a news conference during a visit to Lithuania.

Turkey, which has the second-largest army in the NATO military alliance, has not taken an active role in the Saudi-led operations. Cavusoglu said no demands had been made of Ankara beyond political support.

But he criticised the Shi‘ite Houthi militia, who with their allies seized a central district of the southern city of Aden on Thursday, the last major holdout of fighters loyal to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

“What the Houthis are doing in Yemen is unacceptable. It’s destabilising the country,” Cavusoglu said.

Iran supports the Houthi campaign against Hadi but denies giving them military aid or sending in its own troops. Iran summoned Turkey’s envoy to complain about Erdogan’s comments, although the Turkish president is still expected to visit Tehran next week.

Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by David Dolan/Hugh Lawson

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