Some commentators are asking whether there may be a shift underway in Turkey’s foreign policy. At a meeting in Turkey last year between the Iranian and Turkish presidents, Ankara made it clear it wanted to improve bilateral relations. The Turkish president was quoted as saying their ties are based on their beliefs, culture and deep historical roots.
Abdullah Gul then went to the Iranian capital in March this year to try boost economic cooperation. And a few months later Turkey was among the first to congratulate the Iranian President for his reelection, despite widespread protest over the ballot. This warming of ties has not gone unnoticed in the media, and some observers say Ankara may be turning its back on its Western allies and trying to regain status as a regional power in the Middle East. There is no doubt that gas is important when it comes to economic ties between Iran and Turkey. Iran is Turkey’s second-biggest supplier of natural gas after Russia. And in terms of trade, business between the two countries is now worth more than six billion euros, with plans to double that over the next two years. Both countries are also in agreement on the question of how to deal with Kurdish separatism. Neither country wants to hear talk about an independent Kurdish nation or the partition of Iraq. The Turkish Prime Minister’s visit to Iran comes two weeks after Turkey banned its traditional ally Israel from a NATO exercise, a decision that angered Israel and provoked criticism from the US. Israeli-Turkish relations began to sour with Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The Iranian President has reportedly praised the Turkish Prime Minister for what he calls his “clear stance against” Israel.