Iran’s Raisi to visit Turkey on Jan. 4 for talks focused on Gaza: Turkish official

Iran’s Raisi to visit Turkey on Jan. 4 for talks focused on Gaza: Turkish official

TEHRAN (Reuters): Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Ankara on January 4 to meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks likely to focus on the situations in Gaza and Syria as well as bilateral ties, a Turkish official said on Tuesday.

A planned visit by Raisi in late November was postponed due to the conflicting schedules of the two regional powers’ foreign ministers, the official also said. At the time, Turkey’s foreign minister was in New York as part of a “contact group” of Muslim countries on Gaza.

Turkey, which supports a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has harshly criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza, called for an immediate ceasefire, and said Israeli leaders should be tried in international courts for war crimes.

While it has ramped up its rhetoric against Israel since it launched its air and ground assault on Gaza in retaliation for Palestinian militant group Hamas’ October 7 attack, Turkey has also maintained commercial ties with Israel, prompting criticism from some opposition parties and Iran.

Unlike its Western allies and some Arab nations, NATO member Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Its neighbor to the east, Iran stands at the head of what it calls the Axis of Resistance, a loose coalition that includes Hamas as well as armed Shia Muslim groups around the region that have militarily confronted Israel and its Western allies. It has voiced support for Hamas and warned of wider consequences if the fighting in Gaza continues.

Turkey and Iran have usually had complicated ties, standing at loggerheads on a host of issues, primarily the Syrian civil war. Ankara politically and militarily backs opposition groups looking to oust President Bashar al-Assad, while Tehran supports his government.

While several rounds of talks have been held between Syrian, Turkish, Iranian and Russian representatives to find a political solution to the war, Ankara has also moved to improve ties with al-Assad as part of a regional diplomatic push launched in 2020.