ECO summit in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad was the venue for Mr. Rouhani to grasp the opportunity to meet Erdoğan. This is the highest ranking meeting between two regional rivals since the unsuccessful coup of July 2016 which sought to topple Turkish government.
The meeting was significant in that Iran and Turkey had been on changing terms over Syria. Earlier in January, Turkey joined the Iran-Russia-led front in Syria in Moscow trilateral meeting, followed by Astana second session to which also Ankara participated. However, relations had become tense where Turkish officials including Erdoğan himself accused Iran of promoting Shia cause in Syria, to which Iran retorted, saying that Iran’s patience would not be unlimited for Turkish remarks which muddied ties.
Rouhani and Erdoğan discussed terrorism among the important topics of the meeting. The visit would be a turning point in bringing relations to a détente after Tehran-Ankara ties edged with distrust.
Rouhani reiterated Iran’s commitment and respect to territorial integrity of its neighbors in the region and voiced opposition any possibility of disintegration in Syria and Iraq; on bilateral relations with Turkey, Rouhani believed both countries could work for the stability of the region; “improving ties will serve both nations and the region at large,” Mr. Rouhani told Erdoğan. “Iran and Turkey are pivotal in solving conflicts especially in Syria, to which Turkey had joined recently; terrorism is the major target to be tackled in all probability, since extremists are enemies of the humanity and Islam,” he added.
Rouhani also emphasized that in Yemen killing of innocent civilians by air strikes should be stopped; “national dialogue in Yemen should be accelerated and all-Yemeni negotiations should address the political development in the war-torn country.”
“All countries in the region should work in collaboration to decrease foreign powers’ presence and intervention as well as ending bloodshed,” Rouhani told the meeting.
Mr. Erdoğan for his part believed Iran and Turkey had been moving in a positive direction of détente; “Turkey is committed to raise its trade balance to $ 30bn with Iran, its eastern neighbor; I share the view that cooperation will serve both our nations. We also are in the same direction in the fight against terrorism along with addressing pressing issues of the Middle East,” said Turkish president.