Khamenei Tells Iranians to 'Not Worry' After President's Helicopter Accident

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. EPA
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. EPA
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Khamenei Tells Iranians to 'Not Worry' After President's Helicopter Accident

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. EPA
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. EPA

Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei urged Iranians on Sunday to "not worry" for the country after state media said a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi had an accident.

"The Iranian people should not worry, there will be no disruption in the country's work," Khamenei said in a speech carried on state TV.

"We hope that Almighty God will bring our dear president and his companions back in full health into the arms of the nation."

According to AFP, the helicopter was carrying Raisi, the country’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, citing the state-run IRNA news agency.

Raisi was returning from a trip to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan earlier Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, the news agency said.

The helicopter apparently made a “hard landing” in the Dizmar forest between the cities of Varzaqan and Jolfa in Iran's East Azerbaijan province, near its border with Azerbaijan, under circumstances that remain unclear. Initially, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter “was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog.”

Raisi’s convoy comprised three helicopters including two that landed safely in the northwestern city of Tabriz. Vahidi said it was “difficult to establish communication” with the third helicopter which was carrying Raisi.

Iranian officials have said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations. The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said 40 search teams were on the ground in the area despite “challenging weather conditions.” The search is being done by teams on the ground, as “the weather conditions have made it impossible to conduct aerial searches” via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.

Khamenei has publicly assured Iranians that there would be “no disruption to the operations of the country” as a result of the crash.

Countries including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq and Qatar have made formal statements of concern about Raisi’s fate and offered to assist in the search operations.

Azerbaijani President Aliyev said he was “deeply concerned” to hear of the incident, and affirmed that Azerbaijan was ready to provide any support necessary. Relations between the two countries have been chilly due to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, Iran's regional arch-enemy.



Erdogan Dampens Hopes for Restarting Talks on Cyprus' 50-year Ethnic Split

A handout photo made available by the Turkish President Press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front-L) and Turkish Cyprus President Ersin Tatar (front-R) laying wreath to monument of the Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during their meeting in the Turkish-administered northern part of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, 15 November 2020. EPA/TURKISH PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT
A handout photo made available by the Turkish President Press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front-L) and Turkish Cyprus President Ersin Tatar (front-R) laying wreath to monument of the Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during their meeting in the Turkish-administered northern part of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, 15 November 2020. EPA/TURKISH PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT
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Erdogan Dampens Hopes for Restarting Talks on Cyprus' 50-year Ethnic Split

A handout photo made available by the Turkish President Press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front-L) and Turkish Cyprus President Ersin Tatar (front-R) laying wreath to monument of the Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during their meeting in the Turkish-administered northern part of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, 15 November 2020. EPA/TURKISH PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT
A handout photo made available by the Turkish President Press office shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front-L) and Turkish Cyprus President Ersin Tatar (front-R) laying wreath to monument of the Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during their meeting in the Turkish-administered northern part of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, 15 November 2020. EPA/TURKISH PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT

The Turkish president on Saturday put a damper on hopes for a quick resumption of talks to heal a half-century of ethnic division on Cyprus, reaffirming his support for a two-state deal that Greek Cypriots dismiss as a non-starter.

Speaking ahead of a military parade to mark the 50th anniversary of a Turkish invasion that split the island along ethnic lines, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out a peace deal based on a United Nations-endorsed plan for federation.

Although Erdogan has previously rejected the federation plan, Greece and the Greek Cypriots had hoped he would soften his position.

The anniversary is a festive occasion for Turkish Cypriots in the island's northern third, who view the invasion as salvation from the Greek-speaking majority's domination. The invasion followed a coup that aimed at a union with Greece, which was backed by the Junta then ruling in Athens, according to The AP.

In the south, the howl of air raid sirens at daybreak began a solemn day marking what Greek Cypriots remember as a catastrophe that left thousands of people dead or missing and displaced a quarter of the Greek Cypriot population.

Erdogan’s remarks may further complicate UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ effort to get both sides back to the negotiating table. His personal envoy, Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, has spent the past six months scoping both sides out.

“We will continue to fight with determination for the recognition of the TRNC (breakaway Turkish Cypriot state) and the implementation of a two-state solution," Erdogan told throngs of Turkish Cypriots lining the parade route in scorching heat in the northern half of the divided capital, Nicosia.

“A federal solution in Cyprus is not possible, this is what we believe. ... The Turkish Cypriot side, as equals with the Greek side, are willing to negotiate and are ready to sit down and negotiate. If you want a solution, you need to recognize the rights of Turkish Cypriots."

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar reiterated that Turkish Cypriots reject “domination” by the Greek Cypriot majority and seek “equal national status” for their breakaway state they unilaterally declared in 1983, which is only recognized by Turkey. He added that there's now “no common ground” for a return to peace negotiations.

Referring to a recent resolution in the Ankara parliament calling for a two-state solution, Tatar said it “will help us and our cause incredibly.”

The island's Greek Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides urged Türkiye and the Turkish Cypriots to re-engage in reunification talks if Ankara genuinely seeks regional security and stability and to nudge closer to the European Union.

After numerous failed rounds of peace negotiations, many Cypriots on both sides — although jaded — still hold out a glimmer of hope for a peace deal.