Last week’s Organisation of Islamic Cooperation/Arab League failed to find a consensus among member states to adopt a unified stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict. It however signalled that the competition and cooperation ties between Turkey and Iran – two most vocal and active countries of the region – will find common ground to deepen ties and counter Israel.
One common ground that both Ankara and Tehran have found is that they have refused to label Hamas a terrorist organisation. Both in fact have been supporting and will likely spruce up the organisation in whichever way it will exist in future.
Turkey calls Hamas a “mujahideen liberation group” and Iran sees it a “resistance force which is out to liberate Al Quds (Jerusalem) from the Zionist control”.
Both Turkey and Iran seek strong steps from the Muslim world against Israel and the United States as the daily reports of killing of Palestinians are trickling in and the anger of common Muslims is mounting day by day.
The two non-Arab regional powers have sought to unite their voices in support of the Palestinians, but their visions differ significantly. Turkey supports the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, while Iran refuses to recognise Israel and proposes a joint state for Muslims, Jews and Christians.
Interestingly, while Iran has no diplomatic relations with either Israel or US and faces harshest sanctions levied by the US and its Western allies, Turkey continues to maintain ties with both. Turkey even hosts a key US military base and has robust trade ties with Israel. The gas-oil pipeline originating from Azerbaijan to Israel routes through Turkey.
Will partnership with Tehran turn the tables for Ankara?
The Saturday’s huddle Riyadh didn’t only see President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi exchanging customary pleasantries, officials from both the countries assembled to purportedly discuss future course of action.
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It was announced later that Raisi will visit Turkey by the end of November. It will be on the heels of Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian’s visit to Ankara earlier this month.
Abdollahian said in Ankara that the two sides had agreed to boost border security, establish new border crossings and set up free trade zones as well as convene the bilateral High-Level Cooperation Council.
The talks during Raisi’s visit, according to Turkish and Iranian media, will have a wide-ranging agenda, including Syria and the Caucasus, transboundary waters and fighting terrorism.
Iranian media is also citing Turkey’s stance to claim that Iran is not alone in its Palestinian policy.
Some observers of the West Asian geo-political equation however are not ready to read too much into the possibility of a Turkey-Iran diplomatic or strategic duet.
“Turkey and Iran have been in a complex competition and cooperation vortex of regional conflicts, be it in Iraq, Syria or Azerbaijan. It is true that the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza and deaths of innocents have forced both these countries to look beyond personal interests and unite for a joint cause of Palestinians that is the most pressing issue in the region right now. Plus, both these non-Arab countries are also opposed to the US-led regional order. However, a long-term sustainable cooperation between the two doesn’t seem plausible given sharp faultlines that exist in Syria and Iraq,” said Pervez Bilgrami, a West Asia expert, while talking to India Narrative.
Professor Manjari Singh of Amity University, Noida, feels that both Iran and Turkey have sought “interventionist” approach to prevent Israeli blitzkrieg in Gaza and even arming the Palestinian fighter groups may be an option for them, and also that it may not stop there and escalate further.
“There’s already a nexus in place between Iran and Turkey and that the response of many Arab countries, especially the Gulf States, towards Israel seem too mild to them, the two countries along with like-minded countries like Algeria may plunge into the ongoing war in a more intense way. There is a likelihood that their ‘interventionist’ approach may not necessarily stop at merely arming the Palestinians but they may step into direct confrontation with the Jewish state, as the war extends to its next stage,” she told India Narrative.