BEIRUT

Middle East

Iran admits close intelligence links with Turkey

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) gives a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu on November 27, 2013 on the sidelines of the two-day ministerial conference of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), which groups 10 Asian and Eurasian countries in Tehran. AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE

ANKARA: The Iranian ambassador to Ankara acknowledged Friday that Tehran enjoys close ties with Turkey's intelligence services, a sign of warming relations between the two regional powers.

The comments by Alireza Bikdeli come just weeks after US newspaper claims -- hotly denied by Ankara -- that Turkey blew an Israeli-Iranian spy ring to the authorities in Tehran.

Bikdeli told reporters in Ankara that there was "improved cooperation" between the Iranian intelligence and security services and Turkey's National Intelligence Organisation (MIT).

And he said there were "no grounds" for allegations that Shiite Iran was spying on Turkey, a predominantly Sunni Muslim country.

The Washington Post said in October that Turkey last year revealed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting in Turkey with Mossad handlers.

But Turkey angrily rejected the allegations as baseless.

Relations between Israel and Turkey, once its closest Muslim ally, were damaged after an Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid bound for Gaza in 2010 that left nine Turks dead.

Turkey has found itself increasingly isolated in the Middle East despite a "no problems" foreign policy and has sought to mend ties with the Islamic republic as well as the Shiite government in Iraq.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in Tehran this week and there are plans for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit Iran next year, reciprocating a trip to Turkey by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani scheduled for January.

Bikdeli said Tehran was willing to help Turkey -- one of the strongest critics of the Syrian regime over the brutal civil war there -- rebuild relations with Damascus.

 

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