Iranian FM set to visit Turkey with loaded agenda after nuclear deal
REUTERS photoIranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Turkey on Aug. 11 as he embarks on the second round of his tour of regional countries, including Lebanon and Pakistan, after a nuclear agreement was reached between Iran and world powers.
Bilateral relations between Tehran and Ankara, as well as efforts to find a solution to the Syrian crisis, including the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are expected to be at the core of the talks in Ankara.
Turkey and Iran plan to revive economic ties as sanctions on Tehran ease after the nuclear deal. Despite political differences on Syria, Turkey and the Islamic republic are important trading partners.
Iran is Turkey’s second-top gas provider after Russia, while also providing 30 percent of Ankara’s oil demand. Turkey had been slammed by the West for not cracking down on Iranian sanction-dodgers. Turkey’s state-owned banks will face less Iran-linked pressure when the sanctions are suspended.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani conducted a phone conversation last week. Erdoğan informed his Iranian counterpart about the Turkish military’s cross-border campaign on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in northern Iraq.
Iran and six major powers reached a deal on July 14 after over 18 months of negotiations aimed at curbing the Islamic republic’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions imposed on Tehran.
Rouhani earlier said the Islamic republic’s nuclear agreement with world powers would create better prospects for solutions to Syria and Yemen, two of the Middle East’s worst conflict zones.
In an article published in four Arab newspapers on Aug. 2, Zarif suggested a regional dialogue committee be formed to tackle the multiple crises in the Middle East.
“Nowhere in the world needs this mechanism more than the Gulf region, and the Middle East ... No one can fight against extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq, while helping them grow in Yemen and Syria,” he said.
Russia has called for wider international cooperation, including regional countries such as Turkey and Iran, to fight ISIL and said gains on the ground by the ultra-radical jihadist group mean even those who oppose President Bashar al-Assad should now join ranks with Damascus to fight the common enemy.
However, Turkey is not eager to embrace a recently-proposed Russian initiative on forming a regional alliance to fight against the jihadist group.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said Aug. 7 that any other plan regarding ISIL was not on Turkey’s agenda except for ongoing efforts by the U.S.-led international coalition.