Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived to Turkey’s Istanbul on Saturday to hold talks with the country’s senior officials on bolstering bilateral trade and conferring political differences over issues in the Middle East, especially the war in Syria.
Speaking to reporters upon his arrival in Istanbul on Saturday, Zarif said Iran seeks to forge the highest level of economic relations with Turkey after the implementation of a nuclear agreement, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), concluded between Tehran and six world powers on July 14, 2015.
On January 16, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany started to implement the JCPOA.
Zarif condemned a suicide bombing by suspected Kurdish militants in a main shopping district that killed five people and wounded 36 others, saying it “displays the ugly face of terrorism”.
“Given the common threats, exchanging views on issues and developments in the region is among the objectives of this trip,” he said.
The visit comes after the Turkish premier paid an official two-day visit to Tehran at the head of a high-ranking politico-economic delegation on March 4. He exchanged views with Iranian officials on means of promoting relations and regional crises, particularly the five-year-old conflict in Syria.
Iran has been a strong strategic ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising against him, while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting his opponents and giving refuge to his opponents.
While Ankara and Tehran remain divided over the conflict in Syria, Zarif and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said both sides wanted to mend a relationship that could help establishment of peace and stability in the Middle East.
Turkey’s foreign ministry has said the aim of the talks during Zarif’s visit will be “current regional and international developments” as well as relations between the two countries.
Zarif suggested business would be high on the 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 program, Iran has become the biggest economy to rejoin the global trading system since the Soviet Union broke up more than two decades ago.
After moderate allies of pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani achieved remarkable gains Iran’s last month crucial elections, hopes were raised 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.”
At a news conference after meeting Cavusoglu, Zarif said Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity had to be respected.
“We strongly believe that as neighbors 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 meager despite a more than two-week-old “cessation of hostilities” and Russia’s pulling out some of its forces.
Assad’s government has ruled out the idea of a federal system in Syria after a Russian official said that could be a possible model.
Turkey, who is caught in a spiral of violence after a truce with the Kurdish PKK had collapsed in July, has also dismissed the declaration of a federal region in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria.
Cavusoglu said the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, which Turkey sees as an extension of the PKK, and the affiliated Syrian Kurdish YPG militia had “shown their real faces”.
“They want to divide Syria. With Iran, we support the territorial integrity of Syria,” he told the news conference.
Zarif is also due to meet with President Tayyip Erdogan, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during his visit.