Turkey Urges Joint Effort Against Terrorism, Sectarianism

Turkey Urges Joint Effort Against Terrorism, Sectarianism Turkey Urges Joint Effort Against Terrorism, Sectarianism

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday his country and neighboring Iran need to work together to narrow differences for tackling terrorism and sectarianism in the region.

Ankara and Tehran are on different sides of Syria's civil war, but they are looking to boost bilateral trade and improve banking relations following the lifting of international sanctions on Iran in January.

Iran has stood by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the crisis in the Arab country in 2011, while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting opponents and giving refuge to rebel fighters.

"It is above all in our own countries' interest to strengthen our political dialogue and reduce our differences of opinion to a minimum," Erdogan told a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, in Ankara, Reuters reported.

"We have to work together to overcome the problems of terrorism and sectarianism and the related humanitarian crises that are shaking our region," Erdogan said.

Erdogan's comments came a day after the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, meeting in Istanbul, accused Iran of supporting terrorism and interfering in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries, including Syria and Yemen, charges strongly denied by the Islamic Republic.

Sectarian divisions have flared up in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia's allies rallying behind it as it cut diplomatic ties with Iran. Turkey has close ties with Riyadh.

Besides their rivalry in Syria, Iran is allied with the Houthi movement in Yemen, which has been battling forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed president.

  Rouhani Stresses Banking

Despite the political divisions, Turkey could be one of the major beneficiaries, as Rouhani, bolstered by reformist gains in the February parliamentary elections, pursues plans to strengthen the private sector and welcome foreign investors.

Turkey imports large amounts of natural gas from Iran and the two countries are looking to boost banking and trade ties, with the goal of tripling bilateral trade to $30 billion annually in the coming years.

"The situation is ripe for cooperation between Turkey and Iran in the post-sanctions era," Rouhani said.

"The most important part is closer ties between banks and credit lines. We decided to improve banking relations. Turkish banks can now establish branches in Iran to help facilitate economic relations between the two countries."

On Friday, Iran's Central Bank Governor Valiollah Seif called on the United States and the European Union to help it access the global financial system, including assets that were supposed to be unfrozen following the July 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

Iran is increasingly exasperated that few trade deals are going through, as foreign banks shy away from processing transactions with the country even after sanctions were lifted under the nuclear accord.