Information Note on Foreign Minister İsmail Cem´s Visit to Iran 12-13 February 2001

H.E. Ismail Cem, Minister of Foreign Affairs, paid an official visit to Iran on 12-13 February 2001, upon the invitation of his Iranian counterpart, H.E. Mr. Harrazi.

Apart from his official talks with Minister Harrazi, Minister Cem was also received by President Khatami, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Kerrubi, and First Deputy President (equivalent of Prime Minister) Habibi, during his visit.

The visit took place within the context of annual exchange of visits at Foreign Minister level between two countries. Minister Cem's visit was preceded by the official visit of Minister Harrazi in January 2000. Turkey and Iran both attach importance to these reciprocal visits.

During Foreign Minister Cem's visit, the bilateral relations and all related issues between Turkey and Iran, as well as international and regional matters of common concern were discussed. Both sides agreed to increase their efforts to enhance all aspects of their bilateral relations and in this context; to continue exchanging high level visits. On the occasion of the visit, Foreign Minister Cem expressed that Turkey welcomed and followed with close interest the reform process initiated by President Khatami.

An important aspect of Turkish-Iranian relations, namely security, was discussed at some length. Turkish side reiterated the emphasis it placed on this vital issue between the two neighbouring countries. Iranian side stressed that it defined PKK as a "terrorist organization". In this connection, cooperation achieved through the Turkish-Iranian High Commission for Security and the Joint Security Committee was reviewed and both sides affirmed their political will for the continuation and further strengthening of this cooperation.

Minister Cem was also accompanied by a group of businessmen and journalists. During the visit, Minister Cem addressed a joint meeting of the businessmen from both countries in the Iranian Chamber of Commerce. The main discussion was on possibilities to enhance the economic cooperation and to increase the overall trade volume between the two countries, which did not reflect their real potential. It was noted that the Turkey-Iran natural gas pipeline, once functional in July 2001, would increase bilateral trade volume more than two-fold, to nearly US$ 1,7 billion. This would, however, increase the trade imbalance, already in favour of Iran 2-to-5, to more than 2-to-7. During the visit, decision was also taken to establish Turkish-Iranian Business Council.

Also during the visit, activities of both Joint Economic and Joint Transport Commissions were reviewed. Of particular note was the recent meeting of the Joint Transport Commission, which convened prior to Minister Cem's visit. The Commission's decision to reestablish the passenger train links between Istanbul-Tehran and Damascus-Tehran was welcomed.

On the cultural side, a Cultural Exchange Programme, covering the years 2001-2003 between Turkey and Iran was signed, which envisaged cultural activities in various fields to be organized in Turkey and Iran during the prescribed period.