Both Iran and Turkey have taken important steps not only to mend relations marred by their divergent outlooks on Syria but also deepen them, especially in the economic and cultural spheres. There is enormous potential if the two powerhouses come closer together.
Thursday January 30, 2014, 07:09 EST
Following his two-day official visit to Tehran (January 28-29), Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan not only signed a number of trade and energy agreements but also held meetings with the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rohani and Vice President Es’haq Janhangiri.
Erdogan’s visit underscores the fact that both countries want to deepen relations and move beyond the tensions that have divided the two regional powerhouses over Syria.
In welcoming Erdogan, the Rahbar said that the current brotherly and friendly relations between the two countries are unparalleled in recent centuries and these opportunities must be properly utilized.
“The extensive capacities of both sides are a suitable ground for the expansion and deepening of relations,” the Rahbar said.
For his part, Erdogan said, “We consider Iran as our second home”, expressing hope that relations between the two countries could expand and serve as an example for the region and the world.
During his meeting with Iranian Vice President Jahangiri, Erdogan said: “Today we had a good chance to review bilateral ties.” He went on: “I would like to mention specifically, and to express my satisfaction with, the agreement we signed in the preferential trade field.”
The Turkish prime minister added: “It is obvious that we import from Iran crude oil and gas, which are strategic energy sources, and we [will be] able to increase the volume of these imports.”
Iranian officials say trade between the countries stood at $22 billion in 2012, before dipping to $20 billion in 2013 as a result of new sanctions that came into effect in July. Iranian officials, however, are hopeful that it would reach $30 billion in 2015.
Diplomats and government officials say both sides want to mend relations that could be pivotal to the fast-changing political map of the Middle East. There is growing realization in Turkey that its policy of supporting the mercenaries in Syria by facilitating their movement across the Turkish border is beginning to have negative consequences.
There have been several gun battles between Turkish forces and the mercenaries on the Turkish border in recent weeks. This has set alarm bells ringing in Ankara over the blowback from a policy that has clearly failed. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has visited neighboring countries, especially Iraq and also hosted Iran’s energetic Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif in Ankara for talks.
Despite political differences that are being ironed out, the two sides are keen to move ahead on the economic front. Tehran and Ankara are to establish a joint committee presided over by President Rohani and Prime Minister Erdogan to further discuss and develop bilateral ties.
Erdogan described the Iran-Turkey high-level cooperation council mechanism as important, saying continued bilateral meetings would be held in the future to further expand relations.
The joint committee will be set up under a political agreement signed on January 29. Several documents were also signed relating to economic, cultural, political, trade, banking, customs and cinematic cooperation. A joint economic commission will also be set up shortly.
In a reciprocal gesture, Erdogan invited President Rohani to visit Turkey in the near future. The visit is expected to take place within the next three months.