Iran’s president says tackling terrorism state’s chief objective

Hassan Rouhani in Turkey for two-day state visit

Turkey’s prime minister Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani before a meeting at Mr Erdogan’s office in Ankara on Monday. Umit Bektas/Reuters

Turkey’s prime minister Tayyip Erdogan welcomes Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani before a meeting at Mr Erdogan’s office in Ankara on Monday. Umit Bektas/Reuters

 

President Hassan Rouhani, whose country’s relations with Turkey have been strained by the Syrian civil war, said in Ankara yesterday that Iran would make tackling extremism, sectarian conflicts and terrorism its chief objective.

Mr Rouhani, a pragmatist whose foreign policy of “prudence and moderation” has eased Tehran’s international isolation since his landslide election last year, arrived in Turkey for a two-day visit, a first by an Iranian president since 2008.

Iran and Turkey have found themselves on opposite sides of the political fence over a Syrian civil war that has killed 160,000 people and sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Turkey.

Shia Iran has backed Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising while Turkey has been one of his fiercest critics, supporting his opponents and giving refuge to rebel fighters. Ankara has described Assad’s forces as using terrorist methods while Tehran has used similar language in criticising opposition groups.

Syria discussed

Abdullah Gul

Mr Gul said that Syria was discussed during his meeting with Mr Rouhani. It was unclear whether the two countries were approaching any concrete steps to help scale down a conflict that holds perils for both.

Despite deep divisions between Ankara and Tehran over Syria, the potential of an Iranian market of 76 million people with some of the world’s biggest oil and gas reserves is a magnet for Turkish companies.

Turkey depends on imports for almost all of its natural gas and is keen to increase oil and gas imports from Tehran in anticipation of sanctions against Iran’s huge energy sector being dismantled.

A senior Turkish official said Ankara will demand a discount on the price of natural gas from Iran, which Ankara says is too expensive compared with other suppliers like Russia and Azerbaijan.

Under a contract signed in 1996, Turkey imports 10 billion cubic metres per year of gas from Iran.

Turkey’s state-owned Petroleum Pipeline Corporation applied to an international court of arbitration in 2012 for a ruling on Iran’s gas pricing. The case is pending. “The Iranian side demanded dropping of the legal case and it was discussed during the talks,” said a Turkish official. Iran has so far dismissed Turkish demands it drop the price of gas.

Mr Rouhani’s visit takes place as Iranian, US and European Union officials hold talks about Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme in Geneva in an effort to break a logjam in wider negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers in Vienna last month ran into difficulties, with each side accusing the other of having unrealistic demands in negotiations. – (Reuters)