Iran accused Turkey on Tuesday of prolonging the three-year conflict in neighboring Syria by insisting on President Bashar Al-Assad's overthrow, Reuters reports.
Tehran and Ankara back opposing sides in the civil war, which pits rebel forces including radical Sunni Muslim fighters from the Islamic State against Assad, Tehran's closest regional ally.
Turkey, which has called for Assad to step down, has been a main transit point for foreign militants crossing into Syria to fight his forces, while Iran has supported him both militarily and politically.
"Ankara’s interference in Syrian internal affairs has unfortunately resulted in prolonging the war and extensive deaths of innocent Syrian civilians," Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying.
"The crisis in Syria could have ended three years ago if Turkish officials stopped demanding regime change and supporting terrorist groups in Syria," the official added.
The comments appeared to be a response to remarks by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who was quoted by Turkish media on Monday accusing Iran of playing on Syria's sectarian divisions.
"When we have bilateral meetings with Iran, they agree on solving this issue together. When it comes to action, unfortunately, they have their own way of working," Erdogan was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as saying.
Erdogan has several times called on Assad to resign. In August of 2013 Erdogan, then the Prime Minister of Turkey, said that the goal of any military intervention in Syria should be to topple Assad’s regime.
Those sentiments were echoed recently by Turkey’s current Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who said earlier this month his country is prepared to send ground forces to help eradicate the “Islamic State” (ISIS), as long as the removal of Assad is guaranteed.
The Syrian conflict has undermined what were once close ties between Iranian officials and Erdogan, whose Syria policy has put him at odds with Iran, Russia and, at times, the United States, noted Reuters.
Iran’s Foreign Minister recently warned Turkey against doing anything that might aggravate tensions in the region. That warning came after Turkey’s parliament voted to authorize military intervention in Syria and Iraq.