Turkey hopes to review ties with Iran through senior level visits

Turkey hopes to review ties with Iran through senior level visits

Emine Kart - ANKARA
Turkey hopes to review ties with Iran through senior level visits

AFP photo

Turkish officials have expressed hope to revive bilateral relations with neighboring Iran stalled amid Syrian conflict via high-level visits expected to take place within the next few months.

A visit by a delegation from the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) to Tehran is likely to take place “in the coming days,” a senior Turkish official said on Jan. 15.

The visit by TÜSİAD will be followed by a visit to Ankara by an Iranian deputy foreign minister, the same official said, speaking under the customary condition of anonymity.

“As the two neighboring countries, we need each other. Despite the fact that we fall foul of each other on some issues, we have managed to carry on our relations at a certain level as a requirement of our interests. This will grow particularly when sanctions are lifted,” the official said.

Having confirmed that they have been planning to send a delegation to Tehran, executives from TÜSİAD, however, told Hürriyet Daily News that no exact date has yet been set.

Back in August 2015, a scheduled visit to Turkey by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was postponed at last minute. At the time, Turkish officials said the visit was postponed due to a “change in program,” without elaborating on which side requested the delay and on what grounds. 

Turkish officials expect that the visit by the deputy foreign minister, which they said will take place “within a few weeks,” will lay the ground for Zarif’s delayed visit. 

The postponement last summer followed a senior Iranian official’s harsh criticism of Ankara over its Syria policy, which accused superpowers of using the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other terror organizations as a tool. “Now Turkey is experiencing the same as radical groups it supported have now emerged as trouble for it,” Mehr News Agency quoted Mujtaba Amani, a former Iranian official in Cairo, as saying at the time.

While acknowledging the Syrian conflict as the main source of disagreement between Ankara and Tehran, the same senior official didn’t withhold Turkey’s constant criticism of Iran’s policies, which it defined as “sectarian.”

“Iran wants to build clout in the region and is using sectarianism. Iran has legitimate concerns too. It is a minority country in the Muslim world as Shiites are a smaller group. Since the Islamic revolution, there have been some reactions against Iran and Iran considers these reactions as threats and shapes its policy accordingly. This turns into an element that nourishes a lack of confidence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Iran’s resorting to sectarianism especially in regional issues is a source of uneasiness,” the official said.

Taking all of these facts on the ground into consideration, Turkey doesn’t expect a rapid progress in ties with Iran, the official added.

Ankara’s approach in bilateral relations with Tehran should be defined as “strategic patience,” he said, adding: “Not much should be expected from Iran within a very short time. Patience is needed.”