Iran Focus: Ankara, Aug. 14 – Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Istanbul on Thursday to hold talks with senior Turkish officials.
Ankara, Aug. 14 – Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Istanbul on Thursday to hold talks with senior Turkish officials.
Ahmadinejad is heading a high-level Iranian delegation during the controversial two-day trip, which is his first to the north-western neighbouring state since becoming president in 2005.
He is scheduled to meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul at around 14.30 local time (11.30 GMT) and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Friday in Istanbul.
Local Turkish media sad that the talks are expected to focus on Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West and Iran-Turkey energy ties. Iran's Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari and Energy Minister Parviz Fattah are among several top officials accompanying Ahmadinejad. The two sides are expected to sign a major gas pipeline agreement during the trip.
Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki spoke on the phone with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan on Wednesday. The discussions centred on Ankara-Tehran bilateral relations.
Mottaki and top Ahmadinejad aide Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei are also accompanying Ahmadinejad.
The visit by Ahmadinejad has been widely criticised in Turkey, in part because of the Iranian president’s refusal to visit the mausoleum of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, as protocol requires of all foreign leaders.
In Iran, the government-run news agency Fars said on Thursday that Ahmadinejad’s trip brings together Iran, Turkey and Syria against U.S. policy in the region.
“The President’s visit to Istanbul can help to solve regional crises by completing the tripartite force of Iran, Turkey, and Syria, which can thus force the U.S. to change its policies in the Middle East”, Fars said.
Regional allies Iran and Syria are both accused by the United States of being state sponsors of terrorism.