Turkey and Iran in regional cooperation - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Turkey and Iran in regional cooperation

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had paid a visit to Iran to participate in the Second High Level Cooperation Council. The meeting holds significant clues about the course of Turkey-Iran relations in the new era as it took place despite differences of opinion regarding the conflict in Yemen.

Prior to 2000, Iran was acknowledged as a threat by Turkey, based on a senseless and baseless fear of the regime. However, after 2002, this shallow mindset was replaced with the idea that cultural and commercial interactions should be increased with our neighbor. The legitimacy of the relations between Turkey and Iran, which has specifically been criticized in the 2002-2014 period is currently being revealed.

Iran's nuclear deal with the West shows the consistency of Turkey's stance –despite domestic and foreign criticism- regarding not turning its back to Iran. In global politics, we cannot expect countries to have the same opinions and act mutually, but economic obligations force countries to act rationally. Today, we witness the accuracy of Turkey's rational policies regarding the issue of Iran.

Turkey's economy will reap the benefits of removing the sanctions

Iran, which has faced economic sanctions as a result of its nuclear program since 2011 by many countries including the U.S., was unable to transform its potential in energy resources into economic power.

The framework agreement, which is currently where the nuclear negotiations are located, indicate in a way that the economic sanctions imposed against Iran will be removed. The lifting of sanctions towards Iran will transform its economy, which has been self-enclosed for years.

This transformation does not only include an increase in Iran's oil revenue and the reflection of this revenue in prosperity. At the same time, it means that poverty will be reduced, Iran will be able to develop its technology and infrastructure during the course of its globalization process and the private sector will become widespread.

We can express that the country which will benefit the most after Iran after sanctions are removed is Turkey. The trade volume between Turkey and Iran –two neighboring countries- has dropped to as low as 4 billion dollars, but both countries aim to increase this to 30 billion dollars.

While food, chemicals and automobile sectors come forward as sectors which will increase the trade volume, the Preferential Trade Agreement signed with Iran –after a 10-year evaluation period- will positively affect the trade relations between the two countries.

In the case that the requirements of this agreement –which will come into effect on January 1, 2015,- are effectively implemented, Turkey's exports to Iran will considerably increase. With this agreement, the commercial and economic relations between Turkey's eastern provinces and Iran will be strengthened. The commercial relations established between each province and Iran will not only boost the economic development of cities, but will also accelerate regional development.

The process of energy cooperation must be accelerated

Both Turkey and Iran positively differ in the region as strong countries with political and economy stability. However, Iran, which has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, is unable to canalize this wealth into the economy due to political issues.
Considering that oil and natural gas revenue play a significant role and energy serves as the determinant factor in the new economic order, the crowning of relations between Iran and Turkey with energy will make both countries the stars of the region.

At this point, regional cooperation could be put over the top with Turkey's consecutive moves in its latest energy policies and establishing a cooperation with Iran. The participation of Iran in the Southern Gas Corridor will not only strengthen Turkey and Iran's regional power, but it may also make both countries a key point in the global economy. The fact that Turkey's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız has accompanied President Erdoğan during the trip demonstrates the importance of energy for Turkey's relations with Iran in the new period.

As the talks about lifting the sanctions are spread, the economic enhancement of two countries, which are significantly away from political chaos and uncertainty, will likely produce a new economic alliance in the region. On the other hand, Turkey, which will be the transit point between Iran and international markets, will also play an active role in transportation, the industrial sphere and commercial relations.

The implementation of these plans is only possible with the continuation of Turkey's speedy and active decision-making mechanism in the political and economic arenas.

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