Iran and Turkey: friends or rivals?

Iran and Turkey: friends or rivals?

Trend Persian Desk commentator Temkin Jafarov

Iranian and Turkish officials have many common interests in the region. They have recently spent a lot of meetings.

On the eve of his visit to Iran, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that he will discuss the nuclear program of the country, as well as the events in Syria and Iraq with Iranian officials.

Turkish Foreign Minister's visit was made when the international pressure on Iran was strengthened and tensions recently occurred between Turkey and Iran.

The trade turnover between Turkey and Iran amounted to $ 10 billion in 2010. The officials from both countries expressed their interest in increasing this figure to $30 billion.

The Western countries were trying to drive Iran into a corner during the last years regarding its nuclear program. But Turkey rather expanded its economic ties with Iran.

At present, the sanctions on Iran are tightened. The sanctions against the country's central bank and its oil industry influence on the expanding Iranian-Turkish economic relations.

On Wednesday, Turkish energy minister said that if no new events occur, Turkey will continue trading oil with Iran.

Turkey meets 30 percent of its oil needs (200,000 barrels per day) at the expense of Iranian oil. The Reserve Bank of India has banned to pay for oil supplied from Iran via the system of the Asian Clearing Union since December 2010. So, the Indian companies failed to pay for oil imported from Iran, through the local banks. Finally, India transferred money for oil to Iran via the Turkish Halk Bank in August last year.

According to the experts, the sanctions against the Central Bank and the Iranian oil industry impact on Turkey, as well as other partners of the country.

For this reason, the economic interests are above all for Ankara. While lobbying Iran's interests, Ankara is trying to soften the U.S. sanctions against this country. Davutoglu plans to visit the U.S, Russia and the Gulf and the EU countries during a month.

"We will hold the meetings with all parties and organizations," Davutoglu said at a press conference on the eve of his visit to Iran. "The most significant issue is to reduce tensions in the region."

Along with the economic cooperation, Iran and Turkey also cooperate in the fight against the PKK terrorist organization, which operates in both countries.

Despite all this, there is a difference in the Syrian issue between the leading forces of the region - Tehran and Ankara.

Turkey has recently moved away from Bashar al-Assad's regime as far as the pressure on the Syrian opposition members strengthens and the number of dead people among them increases. Ankara thinks that the Syrian president, unable to control the situation in the country, has lost his legitimacy.

Some Iranian officials sharply criticize Turkey for its position on the Syrian issue and the appeal to Egypt to use the Turkish political model.

Moreover, three months ago, the supreme leader's top adviser for military affairs Yahya Rahim Safavi made a warning to Turkey. He said that if the Turkish political leadership does not create its relations with Iran transparent, it will face the challenge. Safavi said that Turkey should change its policy toward Iran to expand economic ties with Iran.

Earlier, one of the commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (Sepah) also warned Turkey. He said that if military intervention is launched against Iran, Tehran will first aim at the NATO missile defense system in Turkey.

Ankara sharply reacted to these statements of Iranian officials. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that these attacks toward Turkey are not Iran's official position.

Many political events have recently occurred in the region. They allow saying that in current hard situation Iran is interested Turkey to be its friend, rather than its rival.

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