Turkey and Iran seem to be boosting relations as the two countries continue to exchange high-level visits.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning to visit Iran at the end of this month, his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, announced on Saturday at a press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, reported the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.

In addition, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is planning a visit to Turkey in February, said Davutoglu, adding that Zarif would return for an Iran-Azerbaijan-Turkey meeting.

“When Rouhani became the Iranian president, Turkey and Iran decided to communicate frequently, if possible every month, to discuss our mutual agendas and exchange views. I can say that we have accomplished this in the past five months,” said Davutoglu according to the report.

Moreover, he said that the two countries are planning to establish a High Level Cooperation Council mechanism before Erdogan visits Iran.

In addition, the countries are planning to increase trade, aiming for $30 billion in the next few years, with a further possibility for $50b. depending on legal issues, said Davutoglu.

Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post that “this is a continuation of an economic and political trend that is amplified by the nuclear agreement” reached between Iran and world powers in Geneva in November.

“Turkey needs Iranian energy and markets, while Iran needs Turkey to circumvent the sanctions,” said Inbar, adding that they both probably decided that Syria, where their interests collide, is a secondary issue.

“Turkey’s economic and political relationship with Iran continues to expand, even as the Turkish political elite’s ties to the Iranian underworld have mired the AKP government in scandal,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post.

“Iranian gold traders have been at the center of this scandal, underscoring the dangers of working with Iran’s shadow economy,” he said.

Schanzer went on to point out that instead of scaling back relations, “it appears that the AKP is doubling down on Iran,” adding that “it is unclear why Turkey would stake out such a high-profile position at a time when Iran sanctions remain in place.”

Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official told the Post, “Before the corruption scandal became public, Erdogan sought to have the best of both worlds: helping Iran evade sanctions for a profit, but was accepted in the White House as a pro-Western leader.

“With his dealings now blown open, it was decision- time, and he cast his lot with Iran.”

“It’s important to get inside his mind,” Rubin added, pointing out that “Erdogan believes his own conspiracy theories, is deeply anti-Semitic, seeks Israel’s eradication as a Jewish state, and is more inclined to see Iran rather than the West as an ideological ally because at least Iran doesn’t allow its few remaining Jews to control the newspapers, banks, and ‘interest-rate lobby.’”

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