Turkey, Iran to found joint university amid tensions

Turkey, Iran to found joint university amid tensions

Even though political tensions persist between Iran and Turkey, officials from two universities signed a protocol to found a joint university in the eastern province of Van, which borders Iran, after an extensive discussion of plans in a meeting on Saturday, Today's Zaman reported.

Officials from Van Yüzüncü Yıl University and the Iranian University of Tabriz will work together to establish the Turkish-Iranian university. Turkey and Iran signaled last year that they would establish a joint university to bolster cooperation between the two countries in higher education.

In a related development, former Education Minister of Turkey Ömer Dinçer and Iranian Education Minister Hamid Reza Haji Babai signed an agreement to cooperate in the field of education on June 19, 2012. After the deal was approved by Turkey's Cabinet of Ministers on Dec. 12, it was published in the Official Gazette on Jan. 23. The details of the agreement have emerged.

The agreement will automatically be renewed every year unless an objection is raised. While the deal basically aims to strengthen the educational ties between the two nations, it also includes addressing joint extracurricular activities for young people including children in kindergarten.

According to the agreement, teacher, expert and student exchange programs will be launched; the two countries will invite each other to educational events such as art festivals, conferences, seminars, scientific and sporting events. The countries have agreed to facilitate the educational exchange by making it easier for students and teachers attend the events in the two countries. Additionally the nations will share data and resources targeting all levels from kindergarten to university as well as particular attention to information and communication technologies.

The deal envisages holding joint book fairs, exhibitions and theater plays as well as joint workshops with the participation of experts from both countries on issues including crisis management following an earthquake. It is also planned to establish a student group represents Turkey which will have be engaged in common activities with its equivalent to be formed in Iran.

One of the remarkable articles in the agreement is to connect 10 high schools in Turkey to 10 in Iran to pave the way for knowledge sharing. Publications from the educational ministries of the two countries will be shared, while assisting educators in obtaining residence permits for educational exchanges in the two countries.

While the number of projects related to education is poised to increase between the two nations, Iran and Turkey continue to clash in the area of politics. One of the contentious issues is Syria, on which the countries have dissenting opinions. The day the first of six NATO Patriot missile batteries became operational along the Turkish-Syrian border, Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that any attack on Syria is an attack on Iran and that Tehran will use any means available to keep President Bashar al-Assad's regime in power.

Turkey accuses Iran of supporting the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). During the summer when the PKK increased attacks, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the surge in terror incidents in Turkey is tied to Tehran's increased support for the PKK. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast denied Arınç's accusation. In recent weeks a PKK member, Raşit Ali Raşit, claimed that he is an agent working on behalf of Iran during an interrogation at Hatay Police Department's anti-terror branch unit. Raşit claimed he was entrusted with the task by the Iranian government.

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