ANKARA - With tensions between Turkey and Iran over the deployment of Patriot missiles along the Turkish- Syrian border running high, Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayyipErdogan criticized late Friday Iran over its remarks that stationing the missiles "could set the stage for a world war."
Iranian officials have slammed the Turkish government's decision of deploying Patriot missiles on the Turkish border region on several occasions. "Unfortunately one by one, the Western countries are approving deployment of Patriot missiles on Turkey's border with Syria while they are planning a world war which is very dangerous for the future of humanity and Europe itself," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, Hassan Firouzabadi said on Sunday, according to local Fars news agency. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also cancelled his visit to the Turkish central province of Konya on Monday.
In response, the Turkish officials brushed off criticisms leveled by Iran, emphasizing that both Patriot missiles and radar site are deployed for sole defensive purpose.
"When we consult the Iranian president diplomatically on such remarks, he says those remarks reflect personal opinions, not Iran's official position. Then you see someone else appear and speak," Erdogan said during a speech both on NTV and Star TV. Turkish Foreign Minister AhmetDavutoglu also asserted on Tuesday that "the Patriot system is a defensive system and it will not be operated as long as there is no attack against the country. "
Iran has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Basher al- Assad, while Turkey has been one of al-Assad's fiercest critics during the country's nearly two-year unrest as it supported the Syrian opposition and provided sanctuary for some military defectors from Syria.
Turkey has been increasingly worried that the Syrian government may resort to chemical weapons as the pressure on al-Assad mounted recently.
Some observers believe Iran's rhetoric is related to the West's pressure on Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
"I think Iran is preemptively trying to make a stand on Syria so that there will not be much focus on Iran's nuclear program," MesutCevikalp, an Ankara-based defense analyst told Xinhua. (Xinhua)