Iran has summoned the Turkish ambassador in Tehran to protest accusations by Turkish leaders that the Islamic republic is promoting sectarianism and destabilizing the region.
Majority-Shi'ite Iran has close ties with Iraq's Shi'a-led government and backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while majority-Sunni Turkey supports Sunni rebel groups in Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on February 19 told the Munich Security Conference that "Iran wants to turn Syria and Iraq into Shi’ite," and said Turkey is against such sectarianism in the Middle East and had called on Iran to stop threatening the region's stability and security.
"We will be patient with their positions," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said on calling in Turkish Ambassador Hakan Tekin, "but there is a certain cap for our patience."
The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded that Iran should "revise its regional policies and take constructive steps" to end what Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim described as Iran's efforts to "expand its zone of influence."
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus struck a more conciliatory tone in the spat, however, saying “Iran and Turkey are friendly nations" and recent political differences "shouldn’t be blown out of proportion."