Is Iran-Turkey rapprochement sustainable?

Al-Monitor | : At a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is getting the cold shoulder from most Arab states and Iran is crushed under the US administration’s tightening sanctions, we might expect a strong embrace between these two non-Arab countries. And glancing over the headlines, it seems like Ankara and Tehran are on the way to being best friends, courtesy of Russia. The regional common denominators provide crucial ample opportunities for cooperation. Expanding bilateral relations on tourism, regional security and cultural exchanges could benefit both countries.

Yet, there are many challenges behind the smiles of Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who meet regularly as part of trilateral Astana summits. We rarely hear about sustainability of Iranian-Turkish rapprochement in the media. The relations between the two are anything but stable. For example, Erdogan has changed sides on the Yemen conflict completely. In 2015, he had even proposed extending logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition, whereas on Sept. 18 he was arguing Saudi responsibility in the Yemen conflict as a reason for the attack on its oil fields.

A high-level bureaucrat from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Al-Monitor, “The most important matter [between Iran and Turkey] is how to find a common ground in Syria. Turkey no longer calls for the ouster of [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad. Yet, Tehran is not happy about our presence in northern Syria. Can Tehran play the role of broker between Ankara and Damascus? If Russia allows that, it may be possible. It will depend on how they approach the [Kurdistan Workers Party] PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization and the same as other Kurdish groups in the region such as the YPG [People’s Protection Units].”

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