Turkey and Iran seek to improve ties as leaders meet at ECO summit

Turkey and Iran have signed a deal to improve bilateral relations at the 15th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit held in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat over the weekend, Turkish Daily Sabah reported on Monday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi also agreed to convene a high commission meeting during Erdoğan's next visit to Iran, it said, citing Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The leaders held a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the ECO summit on Sunday, it said.

NATO member Turkey is seeking to maintain constructive ties with Iran as Erdoğan’s government seeks to bolster the country’s regional influence and minimise threats to Turkish security in countries such as Iraq and Syria.

Iran and Turkey’s differences over regional policy are most marked in Syria, where Ankara backs the Syria’s opposition in a civil war that began in 2011. Iran supports the government of President Bashar Assad, supplying militia, funding and military know-how.

Ties between long-time regional rivals Turkey and Iran started to improve in 2016, when the neighbours signed the Astana agreement together with Russia to try to end the Syrian conflict. In June 2020 when Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Ankara, Zarif agreed that Iran would back Turkey’s preferred side in the Libyan conflict, and in return, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on the United States to withdraw sanctions on Iran.

The two presidents agreed to talk about the comprehensive improvement of relations and the removal of some obstacles, Abdollahian said, according to Daily Sabah.

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