Predominantly Sunni Turkey and Shia powerhouse Iran have decided to join forces towards finding a peaceful solution to the chaos in Yemen, reports Turkey’s pro-government Daily Sabah, quoting the Iranian envoy to Turkey.
Iranian ambassador to Turkey Ali Reza Bikdeli reportedly said officials from the governments of Iran and Turkey will hold meetings to discuss the crisis in Yemen and, if necessary, the foreign ministers of both countries may “meet face to face in the near future.”
The foreign ministers decided to work together on the Yemen crisis during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Tehran at the beginning of April where he met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“The concrete steps to solve the crisis in Yemen was established during that visit. What Iran and Turkey decided is firstly to reach a cease-fire, secondly dispatching humanitarian aid to Yemen as there are lots of casualties among Yemenis and lastly to start negotiations between Yemeni parties in a third country so that we can pave the ground for the establishment of an all-inclusive government in Yemen,” Bikdeli told the Daily Sabah. “To this end, it was also decided that the foreign ministers of the two countries will stay in touch more closely and hold meetings face to face if required.”
The Turkish newspaper learned from presidential sources that, although a final decision has not yet been made, Turkey may be the “third country” that hosts the peace talks between the two primary warring factions in Yemen, serving as a mediator given its closeness to both sides.
A Saudi Arabia-led Sunni coalition has been launching airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels since March 26.
The Houthis and their allies, military units loyal to Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been fighting armed groups loyal to internationally recognized Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi inside Yemen.
Initially, Turkey came out in support of the Sunni coalition against the Houthis and their allies.
On the same day that the Saudi-led air campaign began, President Erdoğan criticized Iran’s intervention in Yemen, saying, “This has begun annoying us, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. This is really not tolerable and Iran has to see this.”
Erdoğan accused Iran of “trying to dominate the region.”
“It would be better if those who have created irreparable damages with their strategic blunders and lofty politics would adopt responsible policies,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in response.
Turkey and Iran still have different views on what a truce deal would look like.
Daily Sabah notes that “Turkey suggests that Houthi rebels need to lay down their weapons unconditionally and stop their attacks while Iran advises that the Saudi-led campaign needs to be halted immediately.”
Iran denies that it is providing military and financial assistance to the Houthis.
On March 26, Erdoğan told FRANCE 24 that the Houthis and their supporter Iran “must withdraw” from Yemen along with other terrorists groups in the country, including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
“Iran and the terrorist groups must withdraw,” he said.