Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived on Monday in the Turkish capital Ankara on his first to the neighbouring country since his election last year. The visit came in response to an invitation by Turkish President Abdullah Gul.
Rouhani’s visit to Turkey is the first by an Iranian president since 1996 by the former President Hashimi Rafsanjani.
The former Iranian President Ahmadi Najad used to visit Istanbul rather than Ankara for strictly “business trips”, avoiding presidential protocol which obliges foreign dignitaries to visit the grave of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, which the Iranian government reject due to Ataturk’s secular ideology.
Rouhani is scheduled to hold talks with President Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, the Turkish daily Hurriyet newspaper said.
Moreover, Rouhani and Erdogan will lead their respective country delegations in a meeting by the Iranian-Turkish Strategic Cooperation Council, wherein six cooperation agreements are expected to be signed.
Talks between the two sides will be centered on economic cooperation, Iranian nuclear program and regional issues.
The visit comes amid hopes to boost economic ties between Iran and Turkey if a nuclear agreement is reached between Iran and the 5+1 countries in Geneva, particularly because Turkey had supported Iran’s right to have a peaceful nuclear program, and at times played the role of mediator between Tehran and the west.
Turkey expects to be at the forefront of beneficiaries from this agreement if economic sanctions on Iran are lifted. Turkey believes that the lifting of these sanctions will provide significant economic opportunities and double the size of its foreign trade with the Islamic Republic, through partnerships in oil and gas projects.
The agenda of the talks will also include the Syrian issue. Whereas Turkey adopts a strictly critical stance against the Syrian elections and supports the armed Syrian opposition, Iran welcomed the results of elections and considered it a proof of Assad’s legitimacy.
Equally important for Turks is the peace process with the Kurdish PKK and stopping any aid provided by the Iranians to the party. The two sides will also discuss Iranian support for the Syrian PYD, considered a major threat in Turkey after it announced the establishment of self-governed cantons in the vicinity of Turkish-Syrian borders, which raises concerns about the potential of forming an independent Kurdish state if the Syrian situation remains unresolved.