Turkey says attack against Soleimani may trigger new conflicts, calls for common sense

(Releads with security meeting with Turkey's president and comments from Turkish diplomats in paragraphs 1-3, 13-14)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday led a security meeting to discuss latest developments in the Middle East, following the U.S. air strike in Baghdad that killed the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force Qassem Soleimani, state-run Anadolu agency reported

Vice President Fuat Oktay, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, AKP Deputy Chairman Mahir Ünal, AKP Spokesman Ömer Çelik, Preisdential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun and Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın were present in the three-hour-long meeting.

Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın called for common sense in a tweet after the meeting. 

“The attack against Qassem Soleimani and those accompanying him will trigger new tensions and conflicts. Turkey calls on all sides to act with common sense. We will continue to utilize all opportunities of diplomacy for regional and global peace,” Kalın said.

Earlier on Friday the Turkish foreign ministry released a statement saying Soleimani’s death could increase insecurity and instability in the region.

“We are deeply concerned about the escalating U.S.-Iran tensions in the region,” the ministry said in a statement. “The U.S. air strike will obviously increase the insecurity and the instability in the region,” it said. 

“We emphasise strongly once again that turning Iraq into conflict zone will hurt peace and stability,” it said. 

The ministry said Turkey had always opposed foreign interventions, assassinations and sectarian conflicts in the region and called on both sides to prioritise diplomatic efforts. 

The operation against Soleimani, widely recognised as Iran’s leading military commander and the architect of the country’s regional security policies, came after Erdoğan and U.S. Donald Trump discussed the situation in Syria, Libya and Iraq during a phone call on Thursday. 

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said Soleimani’s death could be the start of bigger problems in the Middle East.

“What we expect from Erdoğan is to embrace a more cautious attitude in Middle East policies, to keep Turkey away from the Middle East fire,” he said. 

“Turkey has started 2020 by opening a Libya front line; now we are facing an Iraq-Iran problem on our borders,” veteran journalist Murat Yetkin said in his blog, referring to the government’s plans to send troops to U.N.-recognised Libyan government to support it in the civil war. 

Nesrin Nas, a former politician and Ahval contributor, said that Soleimani’s assassination would further complicate the situation in the Middle East. “What makes me concerned is the fact that the state mentality Turkey had during the 8-year long Iran-Iraq war has totally disappeared,” she said

“Turkey has prevented many U.S. operations against Iran, which it always supported,” said Şamil Tayyar, a former lawmaker of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). “But Iran has never been sincere toward Turkey, it’s left it alone when in need, and in many cases chose the opposite side,” he said. 

“Turkey has always stood against foreign interventions, assassinations and sectarian conflicts in the region. We are calling on all sides to act with common sense and restraint, to avoid unilateral steps that would endanger peace and stability in our region, and to prioritise diplomacy,” Ambassador of Turkey to Iraq Fatih Yıldız said in a tweet.

“Mr. Ambassador, are you sharing your opinions as the representative of a country which has had military forces in Iraq since 1990’s, and just today carried out a drone assassination in Sinjar?” former Turkish Consul-General of Erbil Aydın Selcen responded.