Iran’s Chief of Staff Gen. Baqeri in Ankara:
ANKARA (Dispatches) -- Iran’s chief of staff arrived in Ankara Tuesday for "unprecedented” talks with Turkey’s leadership reportedly aimed at narrowing differences on the Syria crisis and coordinating policy on Iraq.
General Muhammad Hussein Baqeri was due to meet Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his three-day visit.
He kicked off the visit by meeting his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Pro-government Turkish Daily Sabah quoted diplomatic sources as saying the visit was a "milestone” and would not have been possible unless both sides were willing to make deals on both Syria and Iraq.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency meanwhile described the visit as "unprecedented” in the history of bilateral relations.
"This trip was necessary for better consultation and cooperation on various military and regional issues,” Baqeri said in a statement to state Iranian broadcaster IRIB, citing border security and the fight against terror.
Yet relations between Turkey, a secular state, and the Islamic Republic of Iran have on occasion been tense in the last years.
Turkey and Iran lie on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict, with Erdogan seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran, along with Moscow, his key ally and backer.
But Turkey and Russia have been cooperating more over Syria in recent months, helping to extract civilians from Aleppo and then co-sponsoring peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.
And with its anti-Assad rhetoric toned down, Ankara now appears especially concerned about the presence of the U.S.-backed YPG Kurdish militants in the border area.
The YPG is considered by Turkey as terror group and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a deadly three decade insurgency in the Turkish southeast.
The rise of Takfiris in the province of Idlib, neighboring Turkey, has also alarmed Ankara, Moscow and Tehran.
According to the Daily Sabah, the restlessness in Idlib and YPG-held Afrin has forced Turkey and Iran to communicate and collaborate more than ever.
Both Turkey and Iran have substantial Kurdish minorities and they vehemently oppose a plan by Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region to organize a vote on independence later this year.
Turkey has begun building a "security wall” along part of its border with Iran, regional officials said this month, along the lines of a similar barrier on the Syrian border.
High-level diplomatic sources told Daily Sabah that Iran and Turkey are more willing than ever to reach deals in Syria and Iraq, the paper said.
"Amid conflicts and differences of opinion in the region, Ankara and Tehran have rarely been drawn to each other as such while diplomatic channels exert efforts to bring the two sides to a common understanding,” it said.
A Turkish delegation of representatives from the National Intelligence Organization (M?T), the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Foreign Ministry held talks in Tehran in mid-July with Iranian and Russian authorities, the paper wrote, citing unnamed sources.
"While the diplomacy traffic between Ankara and Tehran has been intense, another meeting at the level of undersecretaries is expected to be held in the Iranian capital in the upcoming weeks,” it speculated.