Iranian President Arrives in Turkey

A01352323.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Turkey on Thursday for a two-day visit to the neighboring country for talks expected to focus on bilateral ties, including the enhancement of an energy partnership.

Ahmadinejad is scheduled to meet the Turkish president at around 2:30 p.m. (1130 GMT) and the two would hold a press conference at 5.30 p.m. (1430 GMT).

Ahmadinejad will meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Thursday and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Friday in Istanbul.

Ahmadinejad’s visit came shortly after Western countries decided to implement more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear works. The US accuses Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons; however, Tehran denies such claims saying its nuclear works are solely for peaceful means.

Ankara has earlier said it would help to resolve the row over Iran’s nuclear work but stayed short of labeling its efforts as “mediation”.

Turkey, a NATO member and a candidate for EU membership, is seeking to act as a go-between in the dispute between Iran and the United Nations over Iran’s uranium enrichment.

Six world powers had proposed Iran a package of new incentives to give up NPT right of uranium enrichment. Iran said it would provide an answer to the package after certain ambiguities in the proposals are removed.

Ahmadinejad would meet Gul at Ciragan Palace and two the leaders are expected to hold a press conference at 5:00 p.m. (1400 GMT)

Iran and Turkey are close geographically, historically and culturally.

Turkey is also concerned at the repercussions were the United States or Israel to strike the Islamic Republic.

Turkey is entirely dependent on energy imports to quench its increasing thirst for oil and gas as its industry expands. Iran is currently its second biggest supplier of gas after Russia.

Developing Iran and Turkey’s mutual cooperation in the energy sector is expected to be among the topics that the accompanying Iranian delegation, including the Iranian Oil Minister, would discuss with Turkish officials.

Bilateral trade reached $5 billion in the first half of 2008 and Turkey has pledged to invest $3.5 billion in Iranian gas production. Tehran and Ankara signed a memorandum of understanding but are yet to sign a comprehensive agreement to invest in Iran’s South Pars gas field project.

Part of that deal agreement may be signed on Thursday. Turkey is also a major transit route for goods between the European Union and Iran.

During the recent clashes in the Caucasus Turkey had increased its natural gas exports from Iran after Georgia closed the pipeline that carries gas from Azerbaijani Shah Deniz fields.

Turkey has stepped up cooperation with Iran against the outlawed PKK and its breakaway faction PEJAK, still active in both countries. The PKK is considered as a terrorist organization by majority of the international community including the US and the European Union, and are responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people over the past three decades.

In 2001 Ankara began buying Iranian gas via a pipeline between the two countries, overriding US discontent.

Turkey’s interest in Georgia is heightened by another pipeline that carries crude oil from the Caspian Sea from Azerbaijan’s capital Baku via Tbilisi to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

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