TEHRAN (Reuters) – Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said on a visit to Iran on Monday that he hoped a new security dialogue would be established to help patch up problems between the often feuding neighbors.
Cem told reporters on the plane to Tehran he wanted to begin talks on military and intelligence cooperation with Iran. “We are thinking of starting a new process of dialogue on these subjects,” the reporters quoted Cem as saying.
Iran and Turkey–roughly the same size in terms of geography and population–are age-old rivals who seldom see eye-to-eye on regional issues but have nevertheless not come to blows for more than 400 years.
“Turkey’s relations with Iran are undoubtedly a basis for security in our region,” Cem said on his arrival in Tehran. “We will evaluate all regional issues during our visit…I am sure it will lead to the best results.”
Ankara has accused Tehran of backing Kurdish guerrillas and extreme Islamist rebels in Turkey–while Iran’says Turkey threatens regional security through its military cooperation with Iran’s arch-enemy Israel. But tensions have decreased in the last three years since the start of regular security talks between the two sides.
Cem dismissed the concerns of some in Turkey that Iran might export Islamism to its strictly secular neighbor. “No one has the power to export their regime to Turkey,” he said.
Cem said he wanted Tehran to ease restrictions such as high taxes on Turkish businessmen in Iran in view of the fact that the balance of paymen’s between the two would be further tipped in Iran’s favor with the opening of a gas pipeline in July. He said Iran would start to export three billion cubic meters annually to Turkey–which was due to increase to 10 billion cubic meters in 2007.