Iranian Vice President Masoud Soltanifar has said Iran sees Turkey as a partner, not a competitor, while speaking on a number of issues including bilateral relations and tourism between the two counties in a recent interview with daily Hurriyet.
"In many areas, we see Turkey as a partner, not a competitor. We have common denominators, we can work together," said Soltanifar, who is also the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization.
Soltanifar, who was present at both of the recent meetings between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stressed they "act very carefully and delicately" in bilateral relations.
Days before visiting Iran on April 7, Erdogan had publicly complained in March that "Iran is trying to dominate the region," in an apparent break from the "careful" diplomacy between the top leaders of both nations.
"He did not speak about these issues during his visit in Iran," Soltanifar said. "We focused on expanded cooperation, joint interests and perspectives. It is beneficial for the region if the two countries cooperate and come closer to each other."
When asked about the Green Movement protests after the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, which were suppressed by force, Soltanifar opted to talk about the current "change."
"We saw it in the elections two years ago. The people said 'no' to the previous administration. They demanded a new model, new politics. We have democracy here and people determine their future themselves," he stated.
'Rouhani enjoys even more support'
According to Soltanifar, popular support for Rouhani is even higher now compared to when he was elected. "Because we have succeeded; we decreased the inflation, realized healthcare plans, recorded successes in foreign policy and investments increased," he said, stressing how young people embrace Rouhani during his visits in the country.
Soltanifar did not agree with the observation that young people in Iran still fear voicing their political opinions when speaking to foreign journalists. "You can't expect everyone to speak about politics," he said.
Soltanifar also said tourism has been set as a prioritized sector for bilateral cooperation between Iran and Turkey. "We want to benefit from Turkey's experience in tourism," Soltanifar said.
The two countries are projecting to cooperate in the construction of new hotels and attracting renowned hotel chains and operating tours.