Visiting Tehran after two years with the aim of strengthening bilateral relations with Iran, particularly trade relations, and meeting new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for the first time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Iran is like his “second home.”
Erdoğan met with Rouhani, First Vice President Ishaq Jahangir and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik and Development Minister Cevdet Yılmaz have also accompanied Erdoğan on his Tehran visit.
The only press available was from the joint press conference of Erdoğan and Jahangir, and no questions were allowed, according to the press report. It is also notable that Erdoğan has not mentioned the conflict in Syria or the cruelty of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a contentious issue between Ankara and Tehran due to their different opinions, in the press conference, showing his willingness to develop ties with Iran. Erdoğan reportedly said that in Iran, he feels like he is in his second home, while it has been two years since his last visit.
While Erdoğan was in Tehran, Rouhani wrote about Syria on his Twitter account, saying: “The situation in Syria is devastating. All must unite to put a stop to the fighting and brutal killing that is going on.”
Erdoğan and Jahangir have signed a cooperation agreement to form a joint trade committee. Iranian Trade Minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh and Turkish Economy Minister Zeybekçi have also signed a preferential trade agreement (PTA).
Turkey’s Economy Ministry made a statement about the PTA, highlighting that the negotiations on the agreement have taken 10 years and that with the agreement, Turkey will offer a tariff discount on certain agricultural products to Iran and in exchange Iran will offer a tariff discount to Turkey for industrial products, noting that with this agreement the economic and trade relations between the two countries will gain momentum.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) has signed a cooperation agreement with Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) in a ceremony attended by Erdoğan and Jahangir. The AA and IRNA will exchange daily news and photographs through this cooperation agreement.
Erdoğan later met with Rouhani, and the meeting was longer than scheduled, thus Erdoğan’s planned speech at the international institute of the Iranian Foreign Ministry had to be canceled due to tight scheduling.
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official has confirmed to Today’s Zaman that an agreement on establishing a High-level Cooperation Council mechanism between Turkey and Iran was signed between Rouhani and Erdoğan. The official denied reports saying that the agreement would be left unsigned until Rouhani’s scheduled visit to Turkey in February. Davutoğlu had said in early January, “Hopefully we will complete the preparations for this mechanism before our prime minister’s visit to Iran.”
According to some reports, there was a mistake in the translation of Jahangir’s comments, as it was translated as though an agreement on natural gas had been signed between the two countries. Energy Minister Yıldız later said there has been no agreement signed on natural gas but that the intention of signing such an agreement was discussed.
“I would like to mention specifically, and to express my satisfaction with, the agreement we signed on the preferential trade area,” said Erdoğan, adding that Turkey imports oil and gas from Iran and the volume of these imports will increase in coming days.
Iran’s interim deal with the Western powers to curb its nuclear program last November in exchange for an easing of the economic sanctions on the country has been perceived as a very positive sign on the road to boosting trade between Turkey and Iran.
At the joint press conference, the prime minister emphasized that he hopes the year 2014 will be a milestone for both countries and that the trade volume will reach $30 billion by the end of 2015, pointing out that due to the economic sanctions on Iran, the trade volume with Iran plummeted to $13.8 billion in 2013 from $21.8 billion in 2012.
While Erdoğan’s government aims to enhance economic relations with Iran, US Department of the Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, arriving in Ankara only the day before Erdoğan’s visit to Tehran, warned that there are still significant sanctions in place against Iran and that business deals with Iran should be postponed.
“Iran is not open for business. Sanctions [on Iran] remain in place and are still quite significant, and businesses that are interested in engaging with Iran really should hold off,” Cohen said on Monday, after meeting Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu.
“The day may come when Iran is open for business, but that day is not today,” Cohen emphasized.
Harsh criticism from Khamenei’s representative
Supreme Leader Khamenei’s representative to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hojat al-Islam Ali Saeedi, criticized Erdoğan’s Syria policies only hours before Erdoğan’s arrival in Tehran on Monday.
Criticizing Erdoğan’s policies in Syria, Saeedi said the Turkish prime minister had been acting almost like a puppet of Israel in the Syrian crisis until recently but that the prime minister seems to have woken up, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency (FNA).
Saeedi also claimed that after Turkish foreign policy failed in Syria, Erdoğan showed an interest in enhancing relations with Iran and now “Turkey and Iran are stepping into a new season in their bilateral relations.”
The Iran Project is not responsible for the content of quoted articles.