January 3, 2018 / 10:02 AM / 10 months ago

Erdogan says Turkey values Iranian stability, praises Rouhani

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey said on Wednesday President Hassan Rouhani’s response to days of protests across Iran was appropriate and that Ankara valued Iranian stability, in one of the first regional expressions of support for Tehran.

Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in west London, Britain, January 2, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Files

A source in Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said he discussed the week-long unrest in Iran during a telephone call with Rouhani. The Iranian president told Erdogan he hoped the protests would be over “in a few days”, the source said.

Erdogan’s sympathetic comments follow an improvement in relations between Ankara and Tehran, which have worked together in recent months to reduce violence in Syria, despite backing opposing sides in the conflict for several years.

Rouhani said on Sunday Iranians had the right to protest and criticise the authorities but their actions should not lead to violence or damage public property.

Erdogan told Rouhani “that he found his comments about not violating the law while exercising their right to peaceful protests was appropriate”, the source said.

On Wednesday pro-government rallies in several Iranian cities drew thousands of marchers waving Iranian flags and pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Turkey’s ties with Iran expanded last year as Ankara’s relations with the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia - Tehran’s main international opponents - all frayed.

Secular but overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Turkey shares a border with mainly Shi’ite Muslim Iran. They are the two biggest non-Arab powers in the Middle East region.

In August Iran’s military chief of staff visited Turkey, which is a member of the NATO military alliance, for talks on cooperation in the Syrian conflict and counter-terrorism.

“Iran’s stability is important for us. We are against foreign interventions in Iran,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, in remarks quoted by television channel NTV.

“If the leadership is to change in Iran, the Iranian people will do this,” he said.

Broadcaster CNN Turk said Cavusoglu also echoed Rouhani’s suggestion that the United States and Israel had provoked unrest.

“There are two people supporting the demonstrations in Iran: (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and (U.S. President Donald) Trump,” it quoted Cavusoglu as saying.

Netanyahu has praised Iranian anti-government protesters, while denying as “laughable” accusations that Israel was behind the demonstrations. Trump has tweeted that Iranians are “finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime”.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Gareth Jones

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