Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Turkey on Dec. 17 upon an invitation from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but the visit comes increased tension due to the two countries’ differences over Syria, as well as difficulties stemming from sanctions against Tehran.
Erdoğan and Ahmadinejad, who will speak on the sidelines of a ceremony in the Central Anatolian province of Konya marking the 739th anniversary of the passing of the great Sufi mystic Rumi, are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including Syria and Turkey’s decision to further cut the oil it purchases from Iran as part of Washington’s sanctions. But Turkey has said it will not give up its much-publicized “gold-for-gas” trade with Iran despite the new sanctions package imposed by the U.S.
The two countries disagree over the crisis in Syria, with Iran one of President Bashar al-Assad’s closest supporters; some Iranian officials have also harshly criticized Turkey for siding with Western countries to topple Syria’s government.
Erdoğan openly condemned the Iranian government after a senior Iranian official threatened Turkey last month, and Turkish officials have also begun to examine potential Iranian links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose militancy has risen in 2012.
Along with Erdoğan and Ahmadinejad, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, as well as ministers and parliamentarians will also attend the ceremonies.
The “Şeb-i Arus” ceremony is the last in a series of events which began Dec. 7 in Konya to honor the 13th-century poet, mystic and master of the Mevlevi Sufi order, Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi.
The Iranian president arrives the afternoon of Dec. 17 and will spend the night in Turkey after attending the Şeb-i Arus ceremony.
Erdoğan last met with Ahmadinejad in Islamabad during the eighth summit of the “Developing 8” (D-8) countries on Nov. 22.