Alwaght- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrived in Iran in Monday for an official visit and meetings with Iranian officials. He met with his Iranian counterpart Hussein Amir-Abdullahian and also President Sayyed Ibrahim Raeisi. The visit to Tehran of the top Turkish diplomat came as over the past few years differences have been overshadowing the Iranian-Turkish relations.
The visit, many analysts agree, is part of a broader strategy adopted by Ankara for de-escalation with regional actors in West Asia and North Africa.
The two sides discussed a range of issues including bilateral relations, trade, anti-Iranian sanctions, Afghanistan situation, and regional circumstances.
In the meantime, one of the important issues discussed by the two sides during this trip was a roadmap for long-term cooperation between the neighbors. Both Cavusoglu and Amir-Abdullahian have pointed to the need to form working groups and hold specialized meetings to draw a roadmap. This prompts some questions: What are the requirements of such a roadmap and what are its interests for the two sides? To answer this question, first the general atmosphere of the Iranian-Turkish relations should be brought in spotlight.
Long-term roadmap amid decade-long difference of stances
After 2011, the year changes began to sweep through the region, the friendly relationship of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey and the Islamic Republic went frayed as their positions on regional developments conflicted. The main divisive point, particularly from 2011-2016, was the Turkish opposition to the legitimate government of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In recent years, the coronavirus crisis and also Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ambitions in energy exports and developing warmer ties with Russia and China pushed down the Tehran-Ankara relations, especially in economic terms.
In addition, Cavusoglu’s visit to Tehran after South Caucasus developments and Turkish-Azerbaijani diplomatic tensions with Iran following detention of a number of Iranian truck and bus drivers at checkpoints in Karabakh region and inspection of the Iranian vehicles by Azerbaijani forces is meaningful, because Turkey is behind Karabakh developments. Verbal attacks of the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev against Iran in recent months brought chill to the Iranian-Turkish relations as Aliyev is a close ally to Ankara. Therefore, the two countries are talking about long-term partnership roadmap amid these conflicts of stances in the region.
Long-term roadmap: What are the requirements and interests?
Although the differences between Iran and Turkey on regional issues are obvious and undeniable, in the current situation it seems that the Turkish government continues its regional strategy to de-escalate tensions with various actors, seeking to strengthen its relations with Tehran to pre-coronavirus level. The Turkish FM at a press conference with his Amir-Abdullahian was friendly and sympathetic with Iran about the anti-Iranian sanctions and the nuclear talks. He also hoped that the meeting of the presidents be held soon because there are many documents to be inked to finalize the roadmap that eyes bilateral cooperation. He added that the officials are in touch and talks and agreements will determine the date of the summit.
On the other side, Amir-Abdullahian hoped that soon the Turkish president will visit Iran for seventh summit of a bilateral High Cooperation Council. He called a “comprehensive cooperation document” between the neighbors “useful”, adding that facilitation of trade and investment is of “great significance” for the two sides. During the meeting, the Iranian FM also highlighted cooperation in environment and water resources areas.
The reality is that Iran has always shown that in discussing strengthening relations with its neighbors, especially Turkey, it has never set a limit and has always been open to enhancing the cooperation levels. However, in the current conditions, a long-term roadmap in addition to paving the way for higher trade and investment levels requires Ankara regional policy modification. The Turkish leaders must know that the Islamic Republic has its own considerations in regional equations and crises like Karabakh, Syria, Yemen, etc. Therefore, proximity of stances and even cooperation to tackle the crises are preconditions to a long-term and strategic relationship.
It should be taken into account that designing a long-term cooperation roadmap is a necessity that brings interests to the both sides. The way the West treated Ankara over the past months shows that the US and Europe will never accept Turkey a genuine and strategic ally. And the Turkish adoption of a foreign policy conflicting to that of the West demonstrates that Ankara has no other way than closeness to the East. The Turkish leaders are almost certain that more sanctions on Turkey from West are coming. Looking at these conditions, they decide that close work and even strategic partnership with Iran as a powerful actor that has weathered the Western pressures and set its own game rules in the region can bring bilateral interests.