Turkey, Iran discuss terror and future of Syria

Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers meet in Istanbul to discuss various issues including terror, future of Syria, economic relations; jointly condemn recent terror attack

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) hold a press conference after their meeting at Ciragan Palace in Istanbul, Turkey on March 19, 2016.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have met in Istanbul on Saturday, discussing commonalities concerning terror, Syria’s territorial integrity, and mutual business relations.

Both ministers jointly and strongly condemned a suicide bombing by an unidentified terrorist group in a main shopping district that killed five people and injured 36 people in Istanbul.

“We need to act all together in order to combat against terrorism,” Cavusoglu declared in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart in Istanbul.

Zarif, on a visit to bolster bilateral trade and discuss political differences over the war in neighbouring Syria, said the bombing - which also injured 36 people - "displays the ugly face of terrorism."

While Ankara and Tehran remain divided over the conflict in Syria, Cavusoglu and Zarif indicated that both sides wanted to mend a relationship that could help the establishment of peace and stability in the Middle East.

Iran has been a strong strategic ally of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising against him, while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting his ouster by backing opposition groups.

At the joint press conference, Zarif stressed Syria's national unity and territorial integrity had to be respected which is also a theme underlined by Turkey repeatedly.

Cavusoglu said the PYD, which Turkey sees as an extension of the PKK terrorist group, and its militant wing YPG had "shown their real faces," by their recent declaration of a federal region in northern Syria.

"They want to divide Syria. With Iran, we support the territorial integrity of Syria," he told the news conference.

Turkey, whose fight against the PKK has escalated in recent months, has already rejected the declaration of a federal region in YPG-controlled areas of northern Syria.

Assad has also ruled out the idea of a federal system in Syria after a Russian official said that could be a possible model.

"We strongly believe that as neighbours of Syria, Iran and Turkey can work together to bring peace to Syria. We are ready to help people in Syria to decide about their country's fate," Zarif said.

Hopes of a breakthrough at the Syria peace talks in Geneva remain slim despite a more than two-week-old "cessation of hostilities" and Russia's pulling out some of its forces.

Economic relations

Turkey's foreign ministry has previously said that the aim of the talks during Zarif's visit will be "current regional and international developments" as well as economic relations between the two countries.

Zarif suggested business would be high on the countries’ agenda. "We are seeking the best possible level of economic cooperation with Turkey after the nuclear deal," he told reporters in Istanbul.

After the lifting of international sanctions this year following a deal with Western powers to curb its nuclear programme, Iran has become the biggest economy to rejoin the global trading system since the Soviet Union broke up more than two decades ago.

Gains by moderate allies of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani in Iran's last month crucial elections have raised hopes for boosting foreign investment in Iran, a country with 80 million people and some of the world's biggest oil and gas reserves.

"Iran and Turkey enjoy many commonalities ... The leaders of Iran and Turkey seriously want to further develop economic ties," Zarif told Iran's state news agency IRNA in Istanbul.

"We face common regional threats and of course have different views regarding some issues that should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations," he emphasised.

"It is extremely important for Turkey and Iran to develop some common perspectives in order to end our region's fight among brothers, to stop the ethnic and sectarian conflicts," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu emphasised in Tehran during his recent Iranian visit on March 5.

Zarif is also due to meet with Prime Minister Davutoglu as well as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to Turkey.  

TRTWorld, Reuters