ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is seeking closer commercial ties with Iran and aims to triple trade volumes in the next five years while still respecting the limits set by UN sanctions, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.
The announcement followed a report from the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, stating that Iran plans to give ruling Turkish party AKP $25 million to go towards Erdogan's bid to be re-elected to a third term as prime minister in next year's general elections.
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Turkey plans to buy more natural gas from Iran to supply industry and homes and also hopes to export Iranian gas onto Europe. It will try to eliminate some quotes and tariffs and increase business with Iranian banks, Erdogan stated in an address at a Turkish-Iranian business forum in Istanbul.
"I can't see any reason why we can't establish an unimpeded trade
mechanism with Iran similar to the one with Europe," he added.
Turkey, NATO's sole Muslim member, has defended Iran's right to develop
nuclear energy for peaceful use and voted against US-backed sanctions
against Iran in June. The US administration has since then urged Turkey,
a longtime ally, to help enforce United Nations sanctions against Iran
aimed at deterring the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Turkey has stated that it will abide by the UN sanctions but says it is
attempting to improve ties with Iran in areas not stipulated by the
Iran denies its nuclear program is militaristic in nature and says it
has a right to conduct uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes.
Washington and other powers accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear
Trade between the two countries is currently worth about $10 billion and
official figures show it has jumped 86 percent in the first seven
months this year, mostly due to a recovery from the global financial
"We have been laying the foundations of a very strong building with
Turkey," Iran's vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi said at the meeting.
"Today, we can give the good news to the business world in Turkey that
we will eliminate all problems before trade."
Rahimi said Turkey's friendship was important for Teheran.
"Today, we have no better friend than Turkey in today's world," said
Rahimi. "For Iran, for political security and economy, Turkey is a very