‘Good political relations may effect economic cooperation,’ Iranian envoy says
Iran’s ambassador to Turkey, Ali Reza Bikdeli, has given his assessment on both the Iranian economy and the future of Turkey-Iran cooperation in the fields of economy, energy and trade after the removal of U.N.-led sanctions on the country, in an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News. While acknowledging that Turkish companies may participate in oil and natural gas projects worth $300 billion in the new era of the Iranian economy, the envoy underlined the importance of keeping good bilateral relations to further enhance economic bilateral cooperation.
Here is an excerpt from the interview with Ambassador Bikdeli:
How do you evaluate the reactions coming from Turkey after the removal of sanctions?
We have been receiving congratulatory messages from different segments of the Turkish society, not only from official institutions but also from ordinary men on the street. And we are delighted by this. The removal of sanctions is a world-wide development. And Turkey has a share in this achievement. We carried out some negotiations in Istanbul. Turkey contributed to the process by both facilitating the negotiations and lending assistance to Iranians under embargo. We will never forget this. We are grateful to you.
What is the amount of cash money to be transferred to Iran as the blockages are removed?
This (amount) is more than $100 billion. This is the cash amount belonging to Iran whose transfer was prohibited because of sanctions. As part of a plan by the Iranian government, the amount of money to be transferred in the first phase will be $30 billion. We had received a part of this money before the implementation of the action plan but the whole amount to be transferred is more than $100 billion.
What areas will the Iranian government give priority to?
We envisage that priority will be given to energy, transportation and production. Therefore we have crafted plans to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to these areas. Transfer of technology, updating Iranian industry and finding new markets for Iranian products are also aspects of these plans.
Turkey, Iran enjoy solid infrastructure for economic cooperation
What would be the message from Iran to the Turkish private sector which has an intention to invest in Iran?
We managed to improve our relations during the sanctions. The qualifications we developed during that time will surely be utilized in this new era. We have prepared an infrastructure for massive bilateral economic cooperation. As states, we have established the Turkey-Iran high economic council and different committees to monitor this relationship. As private sectors, there are around 4,000 companies that have built experience in working with each other.
In the new era, the issue of competition will be important. Our experience shows that Turkish firms may actively take part in this new era. Good relations between the two governments will surely help in the enhancement of this cooperation. We should carefully preserve this. Iranian people respect the Turkish economy and Turkish people. We should keep this perspective.
New realities of the Iranian economy
We should also take into account the new realities of the Iranian economy. Traditional trade can no longer be used as it won’t respond to the needs of two countries. We should therefore give more significance to cooperation in the field of technology, industry and preferred trade. Both countries should open ways for the mutual increase in trade and markets. We have the intention to further develop our economic ties with Turkey because the lesson we drew from sanctions was the importance of cooperating with neighbors. Countries not enjoying strong ties with their neighbors would suffer from sanctions and threats imposed by their enemies.
Will there be a visit by the TUSİAD (Turkish Industry and Business Association) to Iran?
Yes, there is an ongoing correspondence about this visit. Nowadays we witness a lot of visits to Iran but obviously a visit by the TÜSİAD will be an important one. The TÜSİAD is an important economic institution but has long been keeping away from Iran. We hope that the TÜSİAD visit will contribute to the Turkish-Iranian economic relationship.
Energy cooperation offers opportunity
How will Turkish-Iranian energy cooperation be developed in this new era?
Iran will implement its energy plans in accordance with its 6th five-year economic development plan. Energy will surely constitute an important part of the Iranian economy. Energy cooperation between Turkey and Iran is well-developed and diversified. Oil and natural gas trade is only one aspect of this cooperation. In the past, among issues we have negotiated are the development of oil and natural gas reserves, building new pipelines to transport gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey and from Iran to Europe and the establishment of a refinery. Other fields we had good results in during the negotiations were electricity and renewable energy.
There are projects on the development of oil and natural gas fields worth $300 billion in which Turkish companies may take part in accordance with their capacities. Turkey and Iran complete each other in the field of energy and we have a good experience of cooperation.
Oil prices should be fixed
Oil prices have dropped as low as to $27 per barrel. Will it affect your economic plans?
We are a country which has already faced the rise and fall of the oil prices so many times. We are familiar with this. We are in favor of a fixed oil price and we believe this would have a positive effect on both exporting and importing countries. Current oil prices do not reflect the real prices and will surely change.
A dangerous project is in place in the Middle East
Would political differences between Turkey and Iran on some regional issues affect future economic bilateral cooperation, especially given harsh accusations from senior leaders?
Public opinions show reactions to the statements of authorities. Therefore we should be careful. Our relations have been improved recently thanks to mutual efforts. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had an important influence in the increase of the level of our ties.
For us, there is a big and dangerous project being staged in our region. Turkey and Iran should pay attention to this. The security of Iran and Turkey are tied to each other. We want to develop our relations with Turkey from this perspective. We are now focused on developing our relations to reach our joint objective of $30 billion trade volume.
An alliance under the leadership of Saudi Arabia was recently formed to fight against terror. How does Iran regard this development?
We hope that the development of the relationship between Turkey and Saudi Arabia will help Saudi Arabia give up its approaches which escalate tension in the region. Turkey is an important country of our region and it can play an important role in stabilizing the region. Iran has always supported Turkey’s participation in activities tasked with the fight against terror. But the main goal of the alliances which were formed recently is not to fight terror but to manage terror.