Regional rival Iran expresses support for Turkey over coup attempt

DUBAI/ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it fully supported the government of neighboring Turkey against an attempted military coup launched on Friday night, despite Tehran and Ankara’s differences over Syria and other issues.

Surrendered Turkish soldiers who were involved in the coup are surrounded by people on Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

The senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Tehran backed Turkey’s elected government against the coup but it expected Ankara to do the same when it came to Syria.

Iran, a Shi’ite Muslim nation, is a main ally of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war while Sunni-majority Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics and has supported his opponents.

“We disagree with Turkey on some issues, like Syria. We are hopeful that the Turkish government respects the Syrian people’s opinion and votes and lets the Syrian nation choose their government,” Ali Akbar Velayati was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency.

President Hassan Rouhani chaired a meeting of Iran’s National Security Council on Saturday to discuss the latest developments in Turkey.

“We support Turkey’s legal government and oppose any type of coup - either initiated domestically or supported by foreigners,” National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani said after the meeting, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has spoken three times on the telephone with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Iranian news agencies said.

Zarif said in a tweet he was “deeply concerned about the crisis in Turkey. Stability, democracy and safety of Turkish people are paramount”.

He later praised Erdogan supporters who took to the streets to oppose the military move.

“Turkish people’s brave defense of democracy and their elected government proves that coups have no place in our region and are doomed to fail,” he said.

(This story corrects to remove reference to phone call between Turkish and Iranian presidents, quoted by Tasnim news agency, as call took place on July 5, not following coup attempt)

Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in Dubai and Parisa Hafezi in Ankara; Editing by Angus MacSwan and David Clarke