Iran sets up trade vehicle with Turkey as Saudi, UAE send flood aid

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said relations with Turkey are the best they’ve been in decades, while Rouhani struck a conciliatory tone amid Saudi and Emirati flood aid.

al-monitor Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif give a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, April 17, 2019. Photo by (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images).

Apr 18, 2019

Iran and Turkey have set up a special transaction channel in order to bypass US sanctions on Iran, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif, who was in Ankara meeting with Turkish officials, spoke on April 18 to Iranian reporters afterward. “It must be said that — regarding bilateral relations — our friends in Turkey have always opposed anti-Iranian sanctions,” Zarif said. He added, “Also, they are opposed to America’s illegal action against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC], which we appreciate and are thankful for.” The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump decided to exit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, which was one of former US President Barack Obama’s foreign policy achievements. The United States this month also designated the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization — an unprecedented move against the armed forces of a foreign country.

Regarding the Turkey-Iran transaction channel, Zarif said, “We reached an agreement in five fields in which we will pursue our work in a special manner, including preferential tariffs, cooperation in energy and banking, using national currencies and creating a mechanism similar to INSTEX [the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges],” which is a special payment channel set up between Iran and Germany, France and the United Kingdom in order to bypass US sanctions and facilitate trade. The European Union has opposed Trump’s decision to exit the JCPOA, but they have largely been ineffective in countering US sanctions.

Zarif added that he and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would personally oversee the Iran-Turkey transaction channel. He said Iran and Turkey would continue cooperation politically, economically and regionally, adding, “The kind of relations we have with Turkey today we haven’t had in decades.” Zarif also said relations with neighbors have been a priority for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's administration, touting the strong relations with Iraq, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and countries in Central Asia.

While Zarif discussed positive relations with neighboring countries, two countries he left out were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Iran and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a regional struggle that has escalated in the last five years due to ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen. However, in a notable step of a possibly positive direction in ties, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have delivered aid to Iran as it continues to recover from massive flooding that impacted multiple provinces in the country. In this vein, in a speech for Army Day, Rouhani tried to strike a conciliatory tone regarding relations with neighbors. “If we in this region have a problem, the root of it is Zionism or American arrogance,” he said, referring to Israel and the US military presence in the region. Rouhani added, “The people of this region have lived together for centuries and did not have problems.”

He continued, “Let’s stand together and cleanse the region of invaders. Let’s push back Zionism — which has been busy for 70 years committing crimes — and help deliver Palestinians and the great nations of this region their historical rights by helping one another."

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