The recent signing of a framework nuclear deal between P5+1 and Iran, coupled with ongoing military operations against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has placed Turkey's oldest neighbor under the spotlight. At such a critical time, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's official visit to Tehran represents an opportunity for Turkey and Iran to strengthen economic ties and promote peace and stability in the Middle East.
Last week's nuclear deal with Iran sparked quite a controversy in the U.S. and elsewhere. Despite objections from Mr. Obama's political opponents and a number of regional governments including Israel, the framework nuclear deal should be celebrated as a constructive effort to promote peace and stability in the Middle East. Considering that Turkey and Brazil had brokered a similar deal four years ago to acknowledge Tehran's right to develop and use nuclear energy, while preventing nuclear proliferation in the region, the Turkish government welcomes the most recent effort. As a matter of fact, the framework deal entails major diplomatic and economic opportunities for the country.
Today, Iran remains one of the few stable countries in the Middle East and, by extension, a valuable partner for regional powers seeking to restore peace and stability. While Turkey and Iran continue to advocate vastly different positions on Syria, it is important to recall that international sanctions against Iran, a country which has grown increasingly isolated in recent years, have at the same time, hurt Turkish interests in the region - which is why the Turkish government repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution to existing problems between its oldest neighbor and the international community. At this point, Turkish authorities must refrain from viewing Iran as an adversary, and focus on integrating the country into the international system instead of deepening Tehran's isolation.
The fact that it took the U.S. and others four years to reach the same conclusions as Turkey, while frustrating, represents a major step in the right direction. In order to keep the momentum going, the Iranian government must, without further delay, reach out to regional powers in an attempt to start making the region a safer place as well as revise a number of misguided policies. Efforts to overcome sectarian tensions could seriously benefit from Turkey's value-based foreign policy. More specifically, the Iranian government must heed President Erdoğan's call to stop sponsoring Shiite militants and the Assad regime. Iran, an ancient civilization and a pillar of the Middle East, cannot afford to be remembered as a regional power contributing to chemical attacks against innocent civilians.
The lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, furthermore, entails abundant opportunities for mutual economic relations. The emergence of Iran as a major trading partner would certainly have a positive influence on Turkey's export-driven economy. It goes without saying that closer economic ties between the two nations could revive hope for peace and stability in the Middle East.Considering the potential relief of sanctions and its integration to the international system, Iran needs to demonstrate the same level of dialogue with the countries in its own region - a genuine effort to contribute to the resolution of conflicts - and become a responsible stakeholder in the increasingly complicated politics of the Middle East.
President Erdoğan's timely visit to Tehran should mark a turning point in bilateral relations and facilitate a fruitful dialogue between two ancient civilizations. Peace in the Middle East hinges on the willingness of regional powers to engage with existing problems constructively and design the future in a responsible manner. Considering that the Iranian government will opt for integration and cooperation as opposed to isolation, Turkey and Iran stand to benefit from stronger economic and diplomatic ties.