Erdogan meets Rouhani amid deepening Yemen crisis

Turkish President holds talks with his Iranian counterpart, but avoids making comments on the conflict in Yemen.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani have agreed to boost trade, but steered clear of directly addressing differences over Yemen.

    Erdogan's one-day visit to Iran comes as relations between Ankara and Tehran have been strained by events in Yemen, where both countries have backed rival sides in the conflict.

    Erdogan has backed a Saudi-led military campaign against Houthi rebels fighting for the control of Yemen. Tehran, which is said to be supporting the rebels, is against the operation. The two countries have also been at odds over the war in Syria.

    The two presidents signed eight agreements and took pains to emphasise the need for greater economic cooperation, with Erdogan saying Turkey and and Iran were far behind a target to lift trade volume to $30bn.
    Trade between the two totalled around $14bn in 2014.

    He also said Turkey and Iran should start trading in their own currencies instead of dollars or euros to avoid foreign exchange volatility.

    Speaking at a joint news conference, both Erdogan played down the regional tension, without making any concrete suggestions.

    "I don't look at the sect. It does not concern me whether Shia or Sunni, what concerns me is Muslims," Erdogan said.

    "We have to put an end to this bloodshed, this death."

    'Peace, stability'

    Rouhani breifly referred to the Yemen issue, saying the two countries, "with the help of other countries in the region" would contribute to "peace, stability, a broader government and dialogue" between Yemenis.

    "Both of us think we should, as soon as possible, come to end this conflict in Yemen and there should be a ceasefire. The attacks from neighbouring countries should come to an end," Rouhani said.

    "And following the ceasefire we should have the situation where we can provide humanitarian support."

    Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Istanbul, said that Erdogan focused on trade relations during his visit and asked Iran to bring the natural gas price for Turkey down.

    Smith said: "Before Erdogan arrived in Tehran, he had a meeting with the Saudi interior minister. Turkey has suggested it might offer logistical support to Saudis in their campaign in Yemen. But in Tehran, he made no concrete reference to the conflict in Yemen publicly."

    Erdogan, a former close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported the uprising in Syria and backed rebels fighting Assad's government. Tehran supports the Syrian government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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