By Bülent Keneş, Today's Zaman
The balances that changed in the Middle East after the US occupation of Iraq oblige Turkey to develop strong relations with neighboring countries that interest in or are concerned with the developments in Iraq, as well as with the international actors there. Turkey took an initiative in 2003 to launch the "conference of Iraq's neighboring countries" and also adopted a policy of zero problems with neighboring countries (KÜSP) -- moves necessitated by this obligation.
Expecting or forcing Turkey to stay away from making statements and taking actions that will maximize its own interests while the United States, Britain and other forces take all sorts of measures and do everything that will optimize their interests in this region is obviously not a just attitude. Turkey cannot content itself solely with following the policies of forces like the United States and Britain, particularly concerning the policies it is supposed to adopt for its surroundings, where heated developments happen. The biggest interests for both Turkey and the region lie in Turkey's ability to develop its own authentic policies despite these forces.
With the need for these policies having been highlighted more through the regional unrest triggered by the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the countries in the region now have to engage more intensely in cooperation and move closer to one another. We should therefore assess Iran-Turkey relations, recently strengthened in the fields of economy and energy, in this context and appreciate their importance in terms of the regional balances.
Turkey and Iran, two neighboring countries with different forms of administration, have preserved their positions of being two key countries in the Middle East with their geopolitical locations, historical heritages, populations and rich cultures. Although they have not suffered from border violations or similar problems since the signing of the Kasr-i Shirin treaty in 1639, they have always engaged in a secret competition against one another due to the different policies they pursue on the region and the fact that they adopted two different sects in Islam. And it is a fact that this secret competition has sometimes teetered on the verge of crisis through the intervention and manipulation of some international actors.
Despite these manipulations and interventions, it's compulsory for Turkey and Iran to form a common cooperative ground in regard to common problems and interests brought along by the conjunctional and geopolitical obligations without overlooking the power fight of the international actors designed to control the rich energy resources. This need for cooperation is so vital that it cannot be sacrificed for Iran's anti-Westernism and anti-US attitudes, nor for Turkey's concerns that stemmed in the past from the threat posed by attempts to import the Iranian revolution.
In fact, the relations between the two countries have at times gotten tense since the Iranian revolution of 1979. While Turkey accused Iran of exporting its revolution and supporting the outlawed terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on the one hand, on the other Iran accused Turkey of aiding and abetting the opponents of the Iranian regime. For this reason, the economic and bilateral commercial ties have always been second to political ones. The commercial ties having to stay in the background despite the geographical proximity and the diversity of the commercial areas open to development has caused important economic losses, and in turn deepened the mutual political distrust.
However, given the factor of geographical proximity, it would not be wrong to state that the only resource Turkey can use to cover its oil and natural gas needs in a most suitable and reliable way is Iran. In fact, an agreement was signed between Iran and Turkey in 1996 in this direction regarding the sale of natural gas. Despite some shortcomings, Turkey had purchased a few billion cubic meters of natural gas from Iran until 2007. The signing of another agreement in May 2007 that enabled Iranian natural gas to reach Europe through Turkey and also news that a second memorandum of understanding on electricity was signed the other day by Energy Minister Hilmi Güler and his Iranian counterpart to further the current cooperation in the field of energy is very hopeful.
New and stronger cooperative action to be taken in the economic field by Turkey and Iran, whose common interest against the terrorist Kurdish activities stemming from northern Iraq lies in acting in unison, will play a major role in the eradication of the political distrust and concerns between the two countries.
Turkey expediting its economic and commercial relations with Iran despite the concerns over its nuclear activities and its extreme armament efforts in the conventional area will help Iran to get back to the international system and become a harmonious and responsible member of the family of nations. In this regard, the international actors who we assume are after a global peace shouldn't worry but rather ought to feel happy to see the progressive development of the relations between the two countries.
Last Mod: 22 Ağustos 2007, 09:13