On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presided over the 6th reunion of the High-Level Cooperation Council between Turkey and Iran, held via video link due to the coronavirus pandemic. The previous meeting dates back to 2016, being held in Ankara.
This format is beneficial for the two regional actors to follow their common objective and interests in finding solutions for the current regional issues.
According to official statements, political and economic relations between Turkey and Iran improved significantly in recent years as the two countries cooperated to resolve the conflict in Syria and business organizations looked to increase the $9.5 billion trade volume between the two countries to $30 billion.
“Dialogue between Turkey and Iran has played a determinant role in resolving many regional problems,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I believe our cooperation will return to its previous levels as the epidemic subsides,” Erdogan added.
In the meeting, Rouhani said Iran and Turkey have had formidable relations throughout history. “Relations between Iran and Turkey have been formed on very strong bases throughout history and the occurrence of bitter and unfortunate incidents has not harmed the ties between the two brotherly and friendly countries,” he said. Also, the president stated that during the last seven years, Iran and Turkey have continuously strived to expand their ties as well as their regional and international cooperation. “The two countries are two major regional powers and there have always been enmities toward both countries which have persisted until today,” he pointed out. As a solution to the issue of common enemies, Rouhani called for the improvement of relations in order to “thwart their plots”.
Therefore, Turkey and Iran agreed Tuesday to take steps together towards establishing joint operations against terrorist groups, such as the PKK and PJAK (Iranian-based offshoot of the PKK terror group).
Moreover, the two states reiterated their commitment to developing new economic cooperation areas to turn around their declining bilateral trade volume, according to a joint declaration issued by the countries following the meeting.
Other economic topics debated were energy and tourism. Stressing the importance of energy, both countries affirmed the importance of continuing cooperation in the field on the basis of mutually beneficial interests. Both sides also agreed to further strengthen cooperation on tourism and culture after eliminating the risks of COVID-19.
On a more general note, both countries are determined to further enhance good neighborly relations nourished by their strong political will and expressed their resolve to effectively implement their bilateral decisions on the basis of mutual interests, according to their declaration.
With regard to the ongoing international/regional conflicts, the two countries said Iraq’s stability, welfare, and security play an important role in regional and international peace and stability.
Furthermore, they underlined that sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan can only be achieved through a genuine Afghan-led and – owned peace process that would lead to a political settlement and expressed their support for such a settlement.
For the case of Syria, Turkey and Iran underlined their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity in line with all agreements in the framework of the Astana format, both sides reaffirmed their conviction that the Syrian conflict could be resolved through a political process in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
In what concerns the pandemic, it is important to mention that Turkey sent medical equipment and aid materials in the early stages of the outbreak to the Iranians. President Erdogan added that “We are continuing to keep the pandemic under control despite the increasing number of cases in recent days in Turkey. On one hand, we have strengthened our health system with the new hospitals equipped with the latest technology, and on the other hand, we are trying to put our economy back on track in production, export, and tourism”. He expressed hope that Turkey and Iran would leave the pandemic behind by further strengthening relations together.
As a conclusion, it is interesting to mention another excerpt of the Iranian President’s statement (which further illustrates the nuances of the bilateral relation): the relations between Turkey and Iran are built on solid foundations throughout history, Rouhani adding that the border between Turkey and Iran has always been “the border of peace and friendship”. Regarding the regional location, he drew attention to the fact “Turkey and Iran are the two great powers of the region. There were hostility and vindictiveness towards both countries. It also exists today. There is no way to be successful against such conspiracies other than by reinforcing friendly relations between the two countries”.