By Mohammad Mazhari

Turkish economist predicts increase in economic cooperation between Tehran and Ankara 

September 2, 2020 - 22:5

 TEHRAN -  Hakan Topkurulu, a Turkish economic expert, believes that there are a lot of countries with different political views in Eurasia, but all of them, including Iran and Turkey, share common interests that push them toward strengthening their cooperation.

Despite the sporadic tensions between Turkey and Iran over the conflict in Syria, the two countries have remarkably succeeded in reducing tensions through multilateral dialogue and dispute management platforms in the past few years.

Iran fiercely opposed the attempted military coup in Turkey in 2016. However, the UAE was among the strong supporter of the failed coup.

 Several factors have contributed to rapprochement between the two countries. They both are suspicious of the presence of U.S. forces in Syria; they also face growing danger by the PKK and its branches in the region; the two neighbors also oppose the blockade of Qatar by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.  Tehran and Ankara also are fierce against Israel’s apartheid regime. 

Predicting an improvement of economic relations between Iran and Turkey in the coming years, Turkish economist Topkurulu says "Turkey has started to take its place in Eurasia after 2014." 
This is the text of the interview:

Q: According to reports and figures, the volume of Iran-Turkey trade ties has seen a great increase since the AKP came to power while the two countries mostly have different approaches toward political issues. How can it be explained?

A: The borders between Turkey and Iran settled in the seventeenth century. Both countries have been living in peace for centuries. 

Turkey has started to take its place in Eurasia since 2014. Ankara has changed some of its policies after it crushed the U.S.-backed coup in 2015.

At Eurasia, there are a lot of countries that have different political views, but all Eurasian countries have mutual interests. You will see in future years that the relationship between Iran and Turkey will improve and the economic cooperation will increase.

 "Any problem with neighboring countries is an opportunity for imperialism."Q: Given the U.S. sanctions against Iran, do you think that the Iran-Turkey roadmap to increase trade ties to $30 billion is achievable?

 A: The U.S. dollar reign is going to collapse. Now the important step for our countries is to strengthen the mutual relationships and not allow the U.S. to undermine our ties. We can take advantage of U.S. weakness to economically improve the cooperation between our countries. 

We both have a huge and young population, and both countries have a big consumer market. Iran has been under U.S. sanctions for long years. Iran is a big energy source, while Turkey needs energy. 

Only this item is enough to promote trade between us. We had already reached 21.886.381.000. dollars in trade ties in 2012. This volume is under U.S. sanctions. If there had been no international obstacles, you could have imagined where the trade volume would have gone.

I am also experienced in trade with Iranian merchants. Both sides can understand each other easily and trust each other. 
Q: What does Turkey's natural gas discovery mean for its foreign policy? Would it affect its relationship with Iran, given that Iran is among the main suppliers of gas for Turkey?

 A: Natural gas discovery is very important for Turkey. One of our main economic problems is our foreign exchange deficit; this deficit is mostly due to our energy importation.

It makes us vulnerable to foreign attempts to undermine our economy. We have experienced the last economic pressure in August 2018. 

The trade between Iran and Turkey in the short term will not be affected by the recent discovery of gas because the volume of natural gas discovered at the Black Sea is not enough for Turkey. 

Even if Turkey had discovered a bigger source of natural gas and didn't need to import gas anymore, from my point of view, it could not affect the good relations between Turkey and Iran as well as with other neighbors.

 However, the foreign exchange deficit is very dangerous for our sovereignty. The Atlantic powers are very uncomfortable because of our natural gas discovery.

Turkey's natural gas discovery has empowered the region.
Q: Given its geopolitical ties with these countries, how does Turkey definite its economic relations with neighbors, including Iran and Cyprus?

A: You mean the Greek part of Cyprus. From my point of view, North Cyprus (which is under the rule of Turkey) and the Greek side of Cyprus must unite with Turkey and Greece. Since 1974, both sides are living separately. Any problem with neighboring countries is an opportunity for imperialism.

Turkey has a foreign policy under the motto of "Peace at Home, Peace in the World" since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk took the helm in the country.

So Turkey's main roadmap for foreign relations is not to interfere with internal affairs. As the West Asian countries, including Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Azerbaijan, and Lebanon, we must develop economic relations with each other. 

Q: Once Turkey raised the slogan of "zero problems with neighbors" while today observers talk about "nothing but problems." What is your comment?

A: "Zero problems with neighbors" policy was an American policy that pushed Turkey toward a hostile approach toward neighbors. This policy was applied by Ahmet Davutoglu, the former Prime Minister of Turkey. In fact, America lost its man in Ankara.

As I mentioned in my answer to the first question, Turkey started to take its place in Eurasia since 2014. In 2016, Ahmet Davutoglu quitted the government. This is one of the most important steps of the Turkish state forward.  

  Q: How much has the COV?D-19 spread affected the Turkish economy?

 A: The wrong economic policies that started to be implemented since 1980 by Turgut Özal has brought Turkey to a problematic structural economy.

The last economic crisis in Turkey, which we name "Priest Bronson Crisis," occurred in August 2018. So the economic crisis started with the COVID-19 in early 2020, while Turkey was already in an economic crisis.

Announced growth figures last week for the second quarter show that the Turkish economy has narrowed %9,9. Is this good? No. But compared to the U.S., which its economy has narrowed %31,7, and the Euro region with %15, this shows Turkey is more resistant to this crisis.

Mostly industrial and service sectors have been affected by COVID-19 in Turkey.

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