Duvar English - Reuters
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Dec. 14 Tehran could move past a diplomatic quarrel with Turkey over a poem recited by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a visit to Azerbaijan, which Tehran had called a threat to its territorial integrity.
“In my opinion, with the explanations (Turkish officials) gave, we can move beyond this issue, but the sensitivity of our people is very important,” Rouhani told a televised news conference in Tehran.
“Based on my past knowledge of Mr Erdoğan, it is very unlikely that he had any intention of insulting our territorial integrity,” Rouhani said. “He always recites poetry in his speeches.”
Iran summoned Turkey’s envoy last week after Erdoğan recited an Azeri-Iranian poem lamenting the 19th century division of Azerbaijan’s territory between Russia and Iran. Tehran appeared concerned his remarks questioned Iran’s territorial integrity and could fan separatist tendencies among its Azeri minority.
On Dec. 13, a total of 225 Iranian lawmakers issued a letter of condemnation against Erdoğan over his recital of the poem. The lawmakers said that Erdoğan's remarks are "detrimental to peace and stability in the region," Fars News Agency reported.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said on Twitter that the poem Erdoğan recited targeted Iran's territorial integrity.
"President Erdoğan was not informed that what he ill-recited in Baku refers to the forcible separation of areas north of Aras from Iranian motherland. Didn't he realize that he was undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan?" the foreign minister asked.
"NO ONE can talk about OUR beloved Azerbaijan," Zarif said, referring to a northwest region of Iran where many of its ethnic Azeris live.
According to Iran’s ISNA news agency, the poem is “one of the separatist symbols of pan-Turkism.”
Azeris are the largest minority in Iran, and millions live in an Iranian region which shares the same name as the independent state of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic. Azeris speak a language very similar to Turkish, while mostly observing Shi’ite Islam, Iran’s state religion.
Turkey has become a close ally of Azerbaijan, helping it make major territorial gains against Armenians in a war that ended with a ceasefire last month.