Davutoglu calls on Iran to do more to halt sectarian conflict
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called on Iran to work harder to prevent Sunni-Shiite tension in the politically fragile Middle East, adding that Iran plays an important role along with Turkey in reducing sectarian clashes in the region. Speaking at a conference at the Ankara-based Institute of Strategic Thinking (SDE) yesterday, Davutoglu touched upon various issues and evaluated Turkey's foreign policy in 2012 in retrospect. "Yes, Turkey took a risk in the Arab Spring. But this was an accurate risk taken at the right time. Turkey sided with the right side of history and became an actor that has directed the course of history," said Davutoglu. Davutoglu said Turkish foreign policy had stood by all religions and ethnic groups in the region over forces of the status quo, describing Turkey's foreign policy as non-sectarian. Faced with criticism from opposition parties, Davutoglu defended the government's policies in Syria and the wider Middle East, asserting that the government wants to lead global and regional processes of change." No one can rightly blame Turkey for the Syrian crisis, which was a political earthquake. We will tackle the problem in the end," said Davutoglu. Davutoglu said the Turkish government stood by the people of the Middle East against Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regardless of sectarian concerns. Due to the Syrian crisis, Turkey is experiencing new challenges with some of its neighbors, said Davutoglu, adding that Turkey has invested in the Syrian people and that, in the end, the Syrian people would emerge victorious.The main point of contention between Turkey and Iran has recently been the uprising against the Assad regime. Ankara wants Assad to step down, while Baghdad and Tehran, the latter with close ties to Assad, were hesitant to take a strong stance on the Syrian leader.Davutoglu said the regimes in the Middle East collapsed because they were remnants of the Cold War era. "The Cold War is coming to an end in the Middle East only now. All the archaic structures are now collapsing," Davutoglu said.The foreign minister also dismissed suggestions that Turkey and Egypt are in competition and a rivalry over regional prominence, saying Turkey will always support Egypt in achieving the goals of its revolution."We have never been in competition with Egypt. We will support Egypt in demonstrating its regional role. During the Gaza crisis, Turkey and Egypt worked shoulder-to-shoulder," said Davutoglu, adding, "Nobody should use Cold War era terms such as a Shiite-Sunni bloc or Egypt-Turkey rivalry."