Turkey's prime minister on Thursday said his country was seeking closer commercial ties with Iran and aims to triple trade volumes in the next five years while still respecting the limits set by UN sanctions.
Turkey plans to buy more natural gas from Iran to supply industry and homes and also hopes to export Iranian gas onto Europe. It will try to eliminate some quotes and tariffs and increase business with Iranian banks.
"I can't see any reason why we can't establish an unimpeded trade mechanism with Iran similar to the one with Europe," said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an address at a Turkish-Iranian business forum in Istanbul.
Turkey, NATO's sole Muslim member, has defended Iran's right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use and voted against US-backed sanctions against Iran in June.
The US administration has since then urged Turkey, a longtime ally, to help enforce United Nations sanctions against Iran aimed at deterring the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Turkey has stated that it will abide by the UN sanctions but says it is attempting to improve ties with Iran in areas not stipulated by the sanctions.
Iran denies its nuclear program is militaristic in nature and says it has a right to conduct uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. Washington and other powers accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon.
'Very strong building'
Trade between the two countries is currently worth about $10 billion and official figures show it has jumped 86% in the first seven months this year, mostly due to a recovery from the global financial crisis.
"We have been laying the foundations of a very strong building with Turkey," Iran's vice president Mohammad Reza Rahimi said at the meeting. "Today, we can give the good news to the business world in Turkey that we will eliminate all problems before trade."
Rahimi said Turkey's friendship was important for Tehran.
"Today, we have no better friend than Turkey in today's world," said Rahimi. "For Iran, for political security and economy, Turkey is a very important country."
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