London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi paid a short working visit to Ankara on Friday to discuss the latest developments in Egypt as well as other regional issues, according to the official news agency IRNA.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Araqchi confirmed that Salehi would discuss the latest regional developments with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu.
“Given the current disagreements on various regional topics between Iran and Turkey, we hope that Salehi’s visit can help bring together both countries’ viewpoints in line with the interests of the Egyptian people,” Araqchi was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
During Erdoğan’s premiership, Iran and Turkey have developed strong economic and political bilateral relations. This includes estimated USD 10 billion joint trade and security cooperation to control the Kurdish militias operating on their soil, which are considered a national security threat to both states.
In fact, the more international credibility outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government lost since 2005, the stronger Iranian–Turkish relations have become. However, this growing relationship suffered a substantial setback due to the escalating Syrian conflict, which began in 2011.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has enjoyed historic links with the Muslim Brotherhood, providing Turkey with a modicum of regional influence, particularly in Egypt and Syria. However, this hindered Iran’s expanding regional influence, particularly in light of Ankara’s opposing stance on the Syrian crisis. In addition to this, Hamas also broke away from the Iranian camp, realigning with Turkey and the former Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt.
Turkish–Egyptian relations may decline following Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s ouster last week, potentially granting Iran an opportunity to strengthen waning strategic ties with the Turkish government.
There are a variety of strategic regional issues that both Turkey and Iran are set to face off against, including the presence of Kurdish opposition militias, the Syrian conflict, Hamas and possible future Palestinian–Israeli peace negotiations.
On August 3, president-elect Hassan Rouhani will be sworn in as Iran’s new president, replacing outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In light of the transitional political phase in Iran, Salehi’s surprise visit to Turkey is not likely to be part of the outgoing government’s foreign policy initiative; rather, the trip was likely made to convey a message from the Iranian supreme leader to Turkish officials.
Observers have predicted that Rouhani’s presidency will demonstrate a level of flexibility in negotiations to reach an agreement with P5+1, the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany, aimed at reducing international tensions over the nuclear issue and putting an end to the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran. However, it remains unlikely that there will be any significant changes in Iran’s regional priorities and redlines.