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Iran dismisses ‘ridiculous’ allegations of planned attacks on Israelis in Turkey

Tehran accuses Lapid of trying to ‘destroy relations’ between Iran and Turkey, day after Israeli foreign minister met his Turkish counterpart in Ankara

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks during a press conference in Tehran, March 14, 2022. (AFP)
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh speaks during a press conference in Tehran, March 14, 2022. (AFP)

Iran dismissed Israeli accusations that it is plotting to harm Israeli citizens in Turkey as “ridiculous” on Friday, a day after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met his Turkish counterpart in Ankara.

In a tweet from Iran’s Foreign Ministry, spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said that Lapid’s “baseless accusations” about such Iranian activity are “ridiculous” and part of a “pre-designed scenario to destroy relations between the two Muslim countries.”

“It is expected from Turkey not to remain silent in the face of these divisive allegations,” he said.

Khatibzadeh also stressed that Iran would respond forcefully to “assassinations and acts of sabotage by the Zionist regime” but “without threatening the security of civilians and the security of other countries.”

Later on Friday, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat responded to Khatibzadeh in a tweet thread. “I suggest not wast[ing] time with accusations, but to talk about the facts. For several weeks now, Iranian terrorist cells have been trying to assassinate innocent Israelis on Turkish soil at the direction of Iran’s terrorist government.”

“Iranian terrorism on the soil of another sovereign state is an additional gross violation of every norm and accepted practice on the part of Iran,” Haiat continued. The Iranian regime chooses terrorism and incitement while world countries strive for and work towards cooperation and enhanced ties between nations.”

While meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara a day earlier, Lapid lauded the cooperation between the two countries’ security forces in foiling plots to harm Israelis in Turkey.

“The lives of Israeli citizens have been saved thanks to security and diplomatic cooperation between Israel and Turkey,” said Lapid. “Iran is behind these attempted terrorist attacks. The intelligence leaves no doubt about it,” he added. “Israel won’t sit idly by when there are attempts to harm its citizens in Israel and around the world.”

Also on Thursday, Turkish media reported the arrest of members of an alleged Iranian terror cell that had planned to assassinate or kidnap Israelis. The news came in the wake of multiple other reports of foiled plots against Israeli targets, as Israel has warned its citizens repeatedly in recent weeks not to travel to Turkey.

Israel issued its first travel advisory against Turkey in late May, and labeled the country a “moderate threat” after reportedly finding “Iranian terrorist operatives” in the country. In mid-June, the National Security Council upped the security level to “high threat” after a reported “escalation of Iranian intentions to harm Israelis in Turkey, with an emphasis on Istanbul,” the council said, calling on any Israelis there to leave immediately, though many ignored the warning.

Speaking before Lapid on Thursday, Cavusoglu promised that Turkey would never allow Iran to carry out attacks on its soil.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speak to the media after their talks, in Ankara, Turkey, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

“We can never allow such things to unfold in our country, and we will never allow such things to take place in our country,” he said.

Israel has been warning for the past month that Iran is attempting to harm Israelis and Israeli targets abroad, apparently in revenge for the slayings of senior officers and others blamed on Israel.

In late May, senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer Hassan Sayyad Khodaei was gunned down outside his home in Tehran. An unnamed US intelligence official told The New York Times that Israel told Washington it had carried out the attack, which Israel has not confirmed.

Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Lazar Berman and AFP contributed to this report.

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