Turkey signs protocol to boost trade with Iran

Protocol signed outlining means to increase value of trade to $20 billion yearly. (The Media Line)

erdogan square pic 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
erdogan square pic 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A protocol was signed on Monday on the sidelines of the Turkish-Iranian Business Forum currently being held in the Turkish capital Ankara, outlining the means to increase the value of the trade between the neighboring countries to $20 billion yearly within a five-year time period, Turkish media reported. The document was signed during a meeting between Turkish Minister of Customs and Foreign Trade Kürşat Tüzmen and his Iranian counterpart Masood Mirkazimi. The initiatives include preferential trade tariffs, an agreement to allow the free movement of goods, the merger of customs services and the establishment of a free trade zone. Currently, Turkish exports to Iran are valued at $1.87 billion, while Iranian exports to Turkey are estimated at $7.84 billion. The majority of Iranian exports are made up of natural gas, which Turkey imports to cover its energy needs. Turkey is generally considered a hub for oil and gas transportation and is currently in negotiations with both India and Israel for the construction of an energy corridor that would take Central Asian and Russian oil and gas from Turkey via Israel and onwards to India. More significant is the Nabucco project, at the center of which is the laying of a gas pipeline from Turkey to Austria, feeding much of the European Union. Nabucco aims to bypass Russia and Iran by receiving its gas from fields in Turkmenistan, in Central Asia. Iran, for which the export of oil and gas is its main source of income, has suggested that the gas for the Nabucco pipeline be provided from its gas fields instead, in order to strengthen the economic cooperation between Ankara and Teheran. During his stay in Turkey, Mirkazimi insisted that the two countries should keep their distance from the dollar and euro bubble and seek joint cooperation with their own currencies, according to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA). Mirkazimi said that despite the hardships of the current global economic crisis, it could cause more convergence among regional countries, according the ISNA. One such example would be to establish joint banks, he said. While Turkey is a close ally of the United States and a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the relationship between Washington and Teheran is marked by distrust, mainly due to diverging opinions on Iran's nuclear program. Teheran claims it is intended to be used to produce electricity, but the US claims the program was established to produce weapons grade uranium used to manufacture nuclear weapons. Iran's vast oil and gas reserves have only strengthened US suspicions. Iran has also turned down a Russian offer for them to supply the fuel for the nuclear plant and then dispose of it, instead of Iran producing its own fuel. The waste product of the fuel is what is being used to produce the weapons grade uranium.