Turkey and Iran seek closer economic cooperation

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey and Iran agreed Saturday to boost economic cooperation between their neighboring nations, aiming to triple their trade to reach $30 billion annually, Turkey's president said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking Saturday at a joint press conference in Ankara, prioritized banking cooperation and easing custom duties to foster investment and increased trade. They also hope to boost tourism between their citizens, a sector that took a hit in Turkey after deadly suicide bombings in Ankara and Istanbul.

Rouhani said his country could fulfill Turkey's energy needs — the country already imports natural gas from Iran.

Iran has been seeking to integrate into the global financial system since nuclear-related sanctions were lifted in January, but has accused the U.S. and the European Union of shutting it out despite the deal.

Erdogan said the two nations, which are at odds over Syria, should work together "to tackle the problems of sectarianism and terrorism" that are shaking the region.

The conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have fanned sectarian tensions in the Middle East and widened the divide between pre-dominantly Shiite Iran and the Sunni powerhouse of Saudi Arabia, an ally of Turkey.

Iran was singled out Friday as a supporter of terrorism in the closing declaration of a summit of the Organization of Islamic Countries in Istanbul that gathered representatives from across the Muslim world.