AFP: Abdullah Gul arrived in Tehran on Sunday on his first trip as Turkish president aimed at boosting economic and political ties with the Islamic republic.
TEHRAN (AFP) — Abdullah Gul arrived in Tehran on Sunday on his first trip as Turkish president aimed at boosting economic and political ties with the Islamic republic.
During his visit which ends on Wednesday, Gul will meet senior officials including his counterpart President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and businessmen.
In an interview carried by Iran’s state news agency IRNA on Saturday, Gul said Turkey backs a negotiated settlement of the Islamic republic’s nuclear issue.
“Iran is signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thus, Iran’s nuclear issue should be solved through negotiation and Turkey will continue to facilitate this,” he said.
Turkey’s ties with its eastern neighbour have markedly improved since Ankara’s current Islamist-rooted government came to power in 2002.
Last month, Turkey hosted talks between Iran and six world powers aimed at allaying Western suspicions that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, but no progress was achieved.
Last June, Turkey — then a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council — irked the United States when it voted against fresh sanctions the body approved against Iran, arguing that a nuclear fuel swap deal it had negotiated together with Brazil the previous month should be given a chance.
Gul also places importance on the economic ties between Ankara and Tehran.
Iranian and Turkish officials have said they want to increase trade between the two countries to $30 billion by 2015 from the present $10 billion.
Turkey’s improving ties with Iran, coupled with a deep crisis in its relations with long-time ally Israel, have sparked concern that NATO’s sole Muslim-majority member is sliding away from the West.
Ankara strongly denies any policy shift.