Erdoğan tells Rouhani he sees opportunity for improvement in Iran-U.S. relations

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani he wanted U.S. sanctions on Iran to be lifted and that statements in recent days pointed to a window of opportunity in Tehran-Washington relations.

The remarks made by Erdoğan during a phone call between the leaders follow a statement by theUnited States on Thursday, saying it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to a 2015 agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons in a bid to revive a deal that Washington abandoned in 2018.

“President Erdoğan, who stated that he wished the new U.S. administration would abandon unilateral sanctions on Iran and lift restrictions on the prosperity of Iranian people, said the statements on the issue in recent days had led to a new window of opportunity,” the presidency said in a statement.

The Turkish leader told Rouhani that “meeting at the point of making the Comprehensive Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action operational again,’’ was the most reasonable course of action for all parties, the presidency said.

Erdoğan also told his Iranian counterpart that it was important to keep the door for dialogue open despite all difficulties.

Turkey has repeatedly voiced its opposition to U.S. sanctions on neighbouring Iran, particularly after the Trump administration ended waivers for Iranian oil imports.

The ongoing criminal case against Turkey's state-owned Halkbank in the United States for violating sanctions against Iran also remains an issue.

Through a scheme that involved shell companies owned by Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, billions of dollars in transactions with Iran’s Central Bank passed through Halkbank’s accounts. U.S prosecutors accuse Halkbank’s managers of knowingly abetting what they called one of the most serious sanctions evasion schemes to date. 

Several government ministers resigned in Turkey over the scandal in 2013 and Erdoğan has called the case an “international coup attempt.”