Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with his counterpart Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Tuesday in an effort to forge closer economic relations and to downplay regional differences between the two countries.
The meeting between the leaders of the two largest non-Arab Middle Eastern countries comes amid sharp disagreements over the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Turkey has been largely supportive of the Saudi-led airstrikes against the Iranian-backed Shi’a Houthi rebels in Yemen, leading some Iranian lawmakers to call on Rouhani to cancel the visit.
“I don’t look at the sect. It does not concern me whether those killed are Shiite or Sunni, what concerns me is Muslims,” Erdoğan said at a press conference during his one-day visit, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“We both believed that it is necessary for us to witness the end of war and bloodletting in Yemen as soon as possible,” Rouhani added.
Despite their foreign policy differences, Turkey and Iran cooperate in a number of key areas economically. Trade between the two countries totaled around $14 billion in 2014.
As part of the visit, the two sides called for greater economic, commercial and industrial cooperation, and officials from both countries signed eight new agreements with the hope of raising economic cooperation to around $30 billion annually.