Enhanced cooperation between Turkey and Iran would improve regional stability, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on a visit to Tehran.
The countries’ foreign ministers demonstrated their growing unity Wednesday by jointly calling for a cease-fire in Syria ahead of peace talks between the factions in its civil war that are scheduled for January 22 in Geneva.
Additionally, Davutoglu announced that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would visit Turkey in January, according to a report in the Iranian Tasnim News Agency.
“Turkey has been pursuing a constant foreign policy in the last 10 years. It is true that we have some differences with neighboring countries, but the tenets of our foreign policy have not changed,” Davutoglu said at a press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Turkey, a Sunni country, has historically been at odds with Shi’ite Iran in their competition for regional power.
In Syria, Iran is supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad, while the Turkish government, led by the Islamist AK Party, is supporting the Islamist opposition.
Davutoglu said that in regard to Syria, the countries should not wait two months for the “Geneva II” conference, but “before then, the ground should be paved for a cease-fire that will also contribute to the success of that conference.”
For his part, Zarif said, “We have shared stances on many issues and also some differences on the crisis in Syria, and we hope that we can resolve these differences with the help of each other,” according to a report by Iran’s Fars News Agency.
Iran, which is the main backer of Assad, has said it is prepared to take part in the Syria peace talks if invited.
Rouhani said in a meeting with Davutoglu on Wednesday that the Syria conflict “has no military solution, and the country’s crisis should be ended through serious negotiations,” according to Tasnim.
On Tuesday, Turkish Hurriyet Daily News quoted Davutoglu as saying: “In my point of view, when Turkey and Iran join hands, this will not only benefit both countries, but also become the backbone of regional stability.”
The Turkish foreign minister also called for greater energy cooperation between the two countries.
“Turkey’s annual energy demand is $60 billion. Turkey is a corridor country, Iran is a producer country. If we fuse both potentials, Turkey could become the corridor of energy provider Iran,” he said.
“At a place and time where some try to instigate sectarian conflicts, the dialogue between Iran and Turkey is the most important dialogue in the region,” Davutoglu said.
Turkey, like other Sunni countries, is anxious about Iran’s nuclear program and is likely unhappy over the US-Iran nuclear deal.
“Ankara will view a US-Iran nuclear deal, coupled with a negotiated settlement in Syria, as Washington turning a blind eye to Iran creating a Shi’ite axis along Turkey’s southern border,” wrote Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an article in The New York Times.
“A US-Iran deal has, however, taught the Turks the following lesson: Do not put all your eggs into America’s basket. This explains Ankara’s recent decision to buy Chinese weapons, in anticipation of a US-Iran deal,” Cagaptay said.
Turkey probably will look more to the Russians and Chinese for security cooperation, though it will also continue ties with the US, he said.
Iran and Turkey are also seeking to boost trade ties following the deal over Iran’s nuclear program.
Reuters contributed to this report.