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Turkey Wants Closer Trade Ties With Iran

Thursday, 16 September 2010 01:43 PM

ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for closer economic ties with Iran Thursday, despite Western pressure for tougher action against the Islamic republic over its nuclear activities.

"Why can't we establish a mechanism of unrestricted trade with Iran similar to the one we have with Europe? I personally don't see any reason why we should not be able to accomplish this," Erdogan said in a speech at a Turkish-Iranian business forum here, Anatolia news agency reported.

"If we complete as soon as possible the talks on a preferential trade agreement... we can reach 30 billion dollars (in bilateral trade) in five years. We have to achieve that," he said.

Ankara has said it will abide by UN sanctions on neighbouring Iran but not by tougher restrictions imposed by the United States or the European Union, with which Turkey has a customs union agreement and is seeking to join.

Erdogan said the trade volume between Turkey and Iran currently stood at 10 billion dollars, most of it from Iranian natural gas sales to Turkey.

"There are lots of things that we can give to Iran.... Turkey has made a serious industrial leap," Anatolia quoted Erdogan as saying.

"Our geographic proximity offers us unique opportunities to improve our commercial and economic ties," he said.

Turkey's improving ties with Iran, coupled by a deep crisis in relations with one-time ally Israel, have sparked concern that Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government is taking NATO's sole mainly Muslim member away from the West.

Turkey insists on a diplomatic solution to tensions over Iran's nuclear programme, and in May -- together with Brazil -- hammered out a nuclear fuel swap deal with Tehran.

In a move that irked Washington, the country voted "no" to fresh sanctions against Iran, adopted by the UN Security Council in June, insisting that the swap deal should be given a chance.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, 16 September 2010 01:43 PM
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