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Iran, Turkey pledge to promote economic ties to reach $30bn trade target

This handout picture released by the Turkish Presidential press service shows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (3R) shaking hands with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (3L) during the Turkey-Iran Business Forum at Cankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey on December 20, 2018. (Via AFP)

Iran and Turkey have agreed to step up their economic cooperation with the aim of reaching a $30-billion target set for their annual trade, voicing concern over the re-imposition by the US of unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic, a move which they say could affect the entire region's economy.

The agreement was reached at the 5th Meeting of High Council for Iran-Turkey Strategic Cooperation in Ankara chaired by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a joint statement issued at the end of the event on Thursday.

Tehran and Ankara, the statement added, called for closer bilateral relations in all areas, especially economy, politics and fight against terrorism, saying enhanced ties between the two neighbors will contribute to the region's peace and stability.

They emphasized the need to promote the existing trade mechanisms between the two neighboring states so they could speed up efforts to increase the volume of their annual to the $30 billion target they had previously set.

US anti-Iran bans harm regional economy

The two sides further criticized Washington's decision to scrap the 2015 multilateral deal on the Iranian nuclear program -- officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- in defiance  of UN Security Council resolution 2231, which has endorsed the international document.

Senior Iranian (L) and Turkish officials attend a meeting chaired by President Hassan Rouhani (C-L) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C-R) in Ankara, December 20, 2018.

They also expressed concerns over the unilateral sanctions that the US reinstated against Iran in the aftermath of its withdrawal from the JCPOA, saying the unfair restrictive measures could harm innocent people and leave a negative impact on regional economic relations.

Iran and Turkey also called for all-out efforts to protect the nuclear deal, which they hailed as the fruit of multilateral diplomacy on the world stage.

On Syria

Iran and Turkey -- which serve, together with Russia, as mediators of a peace process on Syria -- reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the crisis-torn country's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political unity.

They praised the achievements of the peace process which has been underway between Syria's warring parties in Astana, Kazakhstan, since January 2017, saying negotiations should continue in parallel with counter-terrorism battles in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in the Middle Eastern country.

'US anti-Iran amount to terrorism'

Following the event, Rouhani and Erdogan took part in a joint press conference.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, President Rouhani lauded strategic Iran-Turkey relations and said third party will be able to hamper "friendly and close" ties between the two neighboring nations.

Rouhani thanked Erdogan for his firm stance on Washington's unilateralism and unlawful sanctions against Iran, saying "such positions indicated the two countries' commitment to law, mutual interests and morality."

The Iranian president said the US's hostile policies against the Islamic Republic amount to "terrorism," adding, however, that the "era of bullying is over, and that nations today make decisions based on their common interests."

He further commented on the session he earlier chaired with Erdogan, saying Iranian and Turkish officials exchanged views on a wide range of issues such as banking ties, commerce, tourism and culture, and explored ways of promoting mutual cooperation in all those spheres.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) attends a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, December 20, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Rouhani also said Iran and Turkey are resolved to continue their cooperation with Russia in efforts to end the crisis in Syria.

'Turkey to stand by Iran in difficult times'

In turn, Erdogan pledged that Ankara will continue to cooperate with Tehran, stressing that his country does not support the American sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

"The US withdrawal from the nuclear deal is not considered as the right one. This decision increases the risks of the situation in the region, we do not support it. We will continue to be close to Iran at a time when unjust decisions are being taken against it," said the Turkish head of state.

He added that the goal of Turkey and Iran is to increase trade turnover from 11 billion to 30 billion dollars.

"We have good cooperation in the field of security, and we will not let it break," said Erdogan.

During Thursday's talks, Rouhani and Erdogan also oversaw the signing of a number of agreements in different fields, including economy, politics and culture.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, the Iranian chief executive arrived in Ankara on Thursday for two days of talks with senior Turkish officials on issues of bilateral and international significance.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hand with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (L) review a guard of honour during an official welcoming ceremony ahead of their meeting at the Turkish presidential complex in Ankara on December 20, 2018.(Photo by AFP)

Rouhani is accompanied by a number of Iranian ministers and other senior officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh and Economy Minister Farhad Dejpasand.

'Iran ready to provide Turkey with energy needs'

The two presidents later joined an economic forum attend by senior Iranian and Turkish businessmen.

At the event, Rouhani said Iran was ready to provide Turkey with its energy needs, voicing Tehran's readiness to turn US sanctions into an opportunity for closer relations with Turkey in the economic sector.

The two countries, he said, should move towards free trade, saying Tehran was prepared to pave the ground for Turkish investors to play a more active role in the Iranian energy market.

This handout picture released by the Turkish Presidential press service shows  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) delivering a speech during Turkey-Iran Business Forum at Cankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey on December 20, 2018. (Via AFP)

Erdogan also used his speech at the forum to once against slam the US for targeting the Iranian people by its sanctions, saying that the two countries must not allow the bans to hinder the growth of bilateral ties.

Ankara will not abide by the American bans, he said, emphasizing that no party can ask Turkey to decrease its relations with its neighbors.

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