No valid document on relations between Zarrab and Babek yet: Iranian envoy says

No valid document on relations between Zarrab and Babek yet: Iranian envoy says

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA
No valid document on relations between Zarrab and Babek yet: Iranian envoy says Iran’s ambassador to Turkey has said he has never met with Iranian-origin businessman and gold dealer Reza Zarrab, the key suspect of the Dec. 17 corruption probe. Ali Reza Bigdeli stressed the lack of any valid documents displaying relations between Zarrab and Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani, an alleged partner of Zarrab who was arrested in Iran on corruption accusations.

“I have never seen any valid document displaying relations between Zarrab and Babak Zanjani,” Bigdeli told members of the Diplomacy Correspondents’ Association (DMD) on May 16.

Declining to comment on the Dec. 17 graft probe, Bigdeli said he hoped that bilateral trade would not be hampered “due to political reasons”.

“On the other hand we must support those who make efforts to develop trade and economic cooperation between two friendly countries,” he added.

The trade volume between Iran and Turkey was $23 billion in 2012, in large part related to the gold trade, but the figure sharply decreased in 2013 because the gold trade stopped, the ambassador said, referring to Washington’s decision in 2013 to tighten sanctions on Iran’s precious metals trade.

“Turkey and Iran have conducted trade in accordance to international law,” said Bigdeli.

Despite the two countries supporting opposite sides in the Syrian conflict, Bigdeli also said Ankara and Tehran could play a significant role in solving the problem, noting that the two governments were having talks on the issue. He particularly said Turkey and Iran could cooperate on issues such as “preventing terrorism” in Syria, and enabling Syrian refugees sheltered in third countries go to the polls in the upcoming presidential elections.

“According to the information I have received, the Syrian administration will set up ballots within its territory for refugees who want to cast their votes. Refugees will also be able to go to polls in countries where there is a Syrian embassy,” said the ambassador.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is set for his first ever official visit to Turkey, for the first meeting of a high-level cooperation council between the two countries. Rouhani is expected to visit Turkey in late May or early June. The Iranian side has offered May 29 for the visit, but the Turkish authorities have suggested another date because Turkish leaders will be in Istanbul at the time for celebrations of conquest of the city in 1453, according to Bigdeli.

As Ankara deems Iranian gas too expensive compared with other suppliers like Russia and Azerbaijan, the two parties are holding negotiations on a formula aiming to reduce the price of Iranian gas imported by Turkey in return for increasing the amount of natural gas purchased.

“If we can agree on a new volume [of gas] and price, we need a new agreement to be adopted at the Iranian parliament,” the ambassador said.