Erdogan’s words were later denied by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Prior to the denial, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Qassemi told reporters, “The trip was exceptional in that we did not have such visits at such levels for the past 40 years. … The talks were important and decisive. Maj. Gen. Bagheri had a productive meeting with the Turkish president.”
According to a well-informed source in Tehran, the meetings in Turkey were “very important to tackle issues that are eminent and have dire consequences on the national security of both countries. The referendum on [Iraqi] Kurdistan is a matter that concerns Tehran for several reasons. The same applies to Turkey; therefore, all options — literally all options — were on the table of discussions.”
The source added, “Both countries are going to take necessary steps to make sure Iraqi Kurdistan doesn’t split from Iraq, by any means necessary,” and the officials in Erbil received the message.
On the matter of the military campaign Erdogan suggested, the source told Al-Monitor, “This was the Turkish president’s initiative. The PKK is a threat to Turkey’s national security as well as to Iran’s, while PJAK, which we are already fighting, is the one posing a threat to Iran’s [national security]. He wanted to see both his country and Iran launching the campaign against both groups, and in return, he’s ready to be more helpful in Syria. Idlib could be a step of goodwill; still, Iran doesn’t see the PKK as an enemy.”
To Iran, ending the war in Syria needs Turkish assistance, given Ankara’s good ties with several groups that Tehran describes as “terrorists.” Either Turkey abandons these groups or convinces them to disarm, and then an everlasting political solution will become a reality. The side agreement on Idlib, which Turkey’s Daily Sabah called a joint mechanism, was agreed upon within the framework of the Astana talks meeting in Tehran on Aug. 8 and 9. The Tehran meeting was held away from the media, upon Ankara’s request.