Turkey Wants to Strengthen Wide-Ranging Ties

Turkey Wants to Strengthen Wide-Ranging TiesTurkey Wants to Strengthen Wide-Ranging Ties

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country's companies are keen on making mutual investments with Iranian counterparts to help boost bilateral trade to the $30 billion target.

Paying his first visit to Tehran after the removal of nuclear sanctions on Iran, Davutoglu made the statement in a joint press conference with Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri in Tehran on Saturday, IRNA reported.

The Turkish premier welcomed the lifting of sanctions on Iran following the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, which went into effect in January, saying it has removed obstacles for developing cooperation.

"Efforts to reach the $30 billion trade target were facing the barrier of sanctions," he said. "Today, with the removal of sanctions, the path is clear for [making] big investments in Iran."

Turkey maintained economic ties with Iran when it was under nuclear sanctions and kept buying crude oil from the country. However, Iran-Turkey trade of around $22b in 2012 declined sharply to less than half that by last year, as international sanctions on Tehran were tightened.

Davutoglu explained that in his meetings in Tehran, ways of strengthening wide-ranging relations between the two economies, especially in the fields of transit, energy and tourism, were discussed.  

"Iran is the gateway for Turkey to the [Persian Gulf] Arab states and Turkey is Iran's gateway to Europe," he said.

On the potential for energy cooperation, Davutoglu said Iran is a major energy producer and Turkey is a large consumer.

Turkey imports 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Iran annually, or about a fifth of its annual needs. The two sides are willing to double the amount, but price problems are a sticking point.

The prime minister also touched upon the huge capacities for tourism partnership, noting that Turkey is the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world and Iran is an "undiscovered treasure" for the world.

"Iran enjoys a rich culture, as great as its oil and gas sources," he said. "If Turkish experiences and Iranian attractions are combined, a big tourism hub will be created."

Davutoglu said Iran and Turkey may have different positions on regional issues, but if the two economies are strongly linked, they can easily heal their divisions and help bring peace and stability to the Mideast.

"Tehran-Ankara cooperation would be very effective in ending sectarian strife in the region," he said.

  Shared Interest in Regional Stability

Jahangiri said the two sides have had constructive negotiations in the meetings held before the press conference with high-ranking officials, in which energy, transit, customs, banking and tourism cooperation were discussed in details.

The vice president also said a meeting of the joint economic commission will be held in Turkey within a month to help remove obstacles to enhancing cooperation.

On regional issues, Jahangiri said the Middle East is embroiled in  complex problems and described terrorist groups as a grave threat to regional security, which faces both Iran and Turkey.

"Although we have the same opinions on many issues, we may disagree on some problems too," he said. "We want to manage divisions and move toward regional stability."

Tehran and Ankara have different views on the war in Syria, as they back opposing sides in the five-year-old Syria conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the Arab country.

Turkey backs militants and insists that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should not be part of the Arab country’s future. Iran says the decision on Assad’s fate is up to the Syrian people and supports the Syrian Army and its allies fighting militants. The visit comes days before another round of international peace talks on Syria is to be held on March 9 in Geneva.

Later in the day, Davutoglu met with President Hassan Rouhani and discussed bilateral relations and regional developments.

A high-ranking political and economic Turkish delegation led by Davutoglu arrived in Tehran on Friday night for a two-day visit.

Davutoglu is accompanied by ministers of economy, customs and trade, transport, communications and development, and other governmental officials and media people.

The Turkish premier was also scheduled to meet Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The travel is the first high-level state visit to Iran since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the country in April 2015.