Iranian FM Zarif Cancels Visit to Turkey Following Op-Ed in Opposition Newspaper

AP Photo/Keystone,Salvatore Di Nolfi

A planned Tuesday visit to Turkey by Iran’s Foreign Minister and top nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif has reportedly been “postponed” due to “scheduling problems.”

The cancellation coincided with the release of an article by Zarif published in Turkish opposition newspaper the daily Cumhuriyet, which appears to include a possible “veiled criticism” of Turkish foreign policy.

Zarif had been scheduled to meet with Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The trip was reportedly planned to discuss the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two nations, including solutions to thwart the ongoing Syrian crisis and the battle against the Islamic State.

According to the AFP, Zarif’s spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the trip to Turkey wil take place at a later date and that he will instead travel to Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday followed by a trip to Syria on Wednesday. Zarif will reportedly then travel to India on Friday, which will be followed by a trip to Russia next week.

The AFP notes that in the page-long piece, Zarif criticized U.S. policies in the Middle East, blaming the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) on America. Yet, his comments were also seen by many as “veiled criticism” of Turkey, which AFP notes “has been accused of failing to do enough to halt the rise of Islamic State and even secretly colluding with the group.” These claims have been vehemently denied by Erdogan and his government.

Part of Zarif’s op-ed reads:

Extremist elements found a convenient environment during the Syrian crisis with the support they received from individuals, organizations and governments in the region and turned into a giant structure in pursuit of fake causes and ideals. Today, those elements are threatening even their own founders and supporters.

Cumhuriyet is considered a secular, anti-Erdogan publication. The Turkish government notably raided the offices of the newspaper in January after they announced a plan to publish a Turkish-language insert of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in solidarity following an attack on the magazine’s offices by Islamist terrorists. The insert included illustrations depicting Muhammad.

Bilateral trade between Iran and Turkey increased exponentially since 2000, culminating with over $15 billion in trade between the two nations as of this year. The relaxing of economic sanctions and opening of a pathway to international trade between Iran and the world also presents a tremendous business opportunity for both countries.

Turkey’s Former Minister of Economic Affairs, several years ago, likened his nation’s heavy dependency on imports to a “drug addiction.” The nation’s deficit reportedly dropped to $3.36 billion this past June from $4.93 billion that same month last year. Economic Minister Nihat Zeybekci said in an interview with the Daily Sabah that a portion of the driving force behind this shrink in the nation’s deficit can be attributed to a 10.9 precent decrease in imports.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.


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