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Common Interests: What Prompts Turkey, Iran to Increase Security Cooperation

© REUTERS / Stringer Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and his Iranian counterpart Major General Mohammad Baqeri review the guards of honour during a welcoming ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, August 15, 2017
Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and his Iranian counterpart Major General Mohammad Baqeri review the guards of honour during a welcoming ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, August 15, 2017 - Sputnik International
Earlier this week, Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Iran and the nation's most senior military official, visited Ankara to meet Turkish high-ranking officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli.

According to Turkish media, this was the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution that an Iranian chief of staff visited Turkey. It may signal an increase in cooperation between Ankara and Tehran.

In turn, Baqeri was quited as saying that "regional developments and security issues" were the reasons for the visit, according to Iranian state television.

Chief of the General Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri delivers a speech during a military parade marking the 36th anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran, in front of the shrine of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Media also reported that the main issues on the agenda at the Ankara talks were the situation in Syria, the Kurdish problem and border security.

Sputnik Turkey sat down with Bilgehan Alagöz, a political analyst with the Istanbul-based Marmara University, to discuss the visit and its possible consequences for Turkey-Iran ties and the situation in the region.

"In terms of security, relations between Ankara and Tehran have a long history, but over the last six years they have seen a number of crises. The reason is the differences between their position over the Syrian problem. And this is the first reason behind such a high-profile visit. Moreover, Turkey’s security cooperation with Iran has been limited due to the fact that Ankara is a NATO member. But the recent developments in the region have prompted both countries to increase security cooperation," Alagöz said.

This May 24, 2017 file photo shows the newly built wall near Cilvegozu border gate in Reyhanli, at the Turkey-Syria border - Sputnik International
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Commenting on border security issues between Turkey and Iran, the analyst pointed out that the main factor is the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates.

"The Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), an anti-government offshoot of the PKK in Iran, has long been a major security concern for Tehran. The situation in Iraq and Syria resulted in increased Kurdish activities along the Turkish-Iranian border. This may be the main factor behind Turkey and Ankara increasing military cooperation," Alagöz explained.

Earlier this month, Ankara started the construction of a massive wall along the border with Iran.

Kurdish children hold a flag of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and banners during a demonstration against the exclusion of Syrian-Kurds from the Geneva talks in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on February 4, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Commenting on the initiative, the expert said that the wall is aimed at protecting the Turkish-Iranian border against the Kurdish threat.

"Ankara and Tehran also want to develop trade ties, but Kurdish activities along the border remain a problem, including attacks and provocations. Turkey and Iran expect this wall to improve the situation. I think despite the fact that there have been no statements from the Iranian government, it is rather positive about this measure," the expert said.

Speaking further, Alagöz suggested that Ankara and Tehran will probably try to work out a common strategy to deal with the Kurdish problem.

"Baqeri was appointed a year ago. It was reported that his priority task would be countering groups and organizations threatening Iran’s national interests. Since his appointment Tehran and Ankara has made progress in security cooperation. I guess that both countries will prioritize the development of a common policy on Kurdish groups operating in border areas," the expert concluded.

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