Companies in Iran are finding their way to the world economy through Turkey, developing strong trade ties in recent years, according to a Turkish business representative.

"Turkey is replacing Dubai for Iranian firms," Bilgin Aygün, the vice chairman of Turkish-Iranian Business Council at Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey, or DEİK, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday. "The best of Iranian firms penetrate world markets through Turkey," he said, noting that cultural, historical and religious links go back hundreds of years as well as Iranian firms' interest in Turkey.

"Many Iranian firms with warehouses in Dubai are now considering Turkey due to the geographical advantages it offers," he said, adding that direct flights offered by Turkish Airlines to four Iranian cities have paved the way for business growth between the two countries.

According to figures from the Turkish Prime Ministry's Undersecretariat of Treasury, the number of Iranian firms in Turkey reached 1,470 by the end of last year. The figure for the years between 1954 and 2002 was only 319.

Starting from 2002, the year that Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came into power, every year nearly a hundred new Iranian firms started to operate on Turkish soil. Iranian firms' interest in Turkey even continued during the global recession; 139 new firms were registered in Turkey in 2008.

According to figures, 167 Iranian firms started to operate in the country in 2009, before a record-breaking 284 last year.

The total capital of the top 74 Iranian companies out of 167 that were registered in Turkey in 2009 was between $50,000 and $200,000. The capital of only seven Iranian companies that registered in the country was above $500,000. In 2010, the capital of 284 new Iranian companies in the country totalled $9.83 million.

"Bilateral trade volume has increased 50% as of the end of last year," Aygün said.

It was "considerably" easier for Turkish businessmen to work with Iranian firms as almost one in every three speaks Azeri, a dialect similar to Turkish, said the vice chairman. "Turkey could penetrate eastern markets through Iran, while Iran penetrates western markets through Turkey."

Turkish dependency on energy imports has increased the strategic importance of Iran for the country, Aygün said. "Turkey and Iran could join forces and invest in third countries, especially in Tajikistan and Afghanistan that are strongly under the influence of Iran."

He said an Iranian business delegation would visit Istanbul in September to meet with Turkish businessmen to negotiate the possibility of investment in third countries. "A Turkish business delegation from DEIK would visit Tehran for the same purpose in April 2012."

Turkey's oil imports reached 7.8 million tons in 2008 but slumped down to 3.2 million tons in 2009. According to Energy Market Regulatory Body, or EPDK, Turkey's total import of oil from Iran reached 5.3 billion tons by the end of last year. Natural gas import of Turkey reached 5.2 million cubic meters by the end of last year from 4.1 million cubic meters in 2008 and 5.2 million in 2009.

Turkey and Iran opened a third border-crossing at Kapıköy in the eastern province of Van last Saturday. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said, "Our prime minister set a target of $30 billion in annual trade with Iran. That is why we are opening this border crossing."

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar, talking at the ceremony, said, "This border is a symbol of peace and friendship and the resurrection of the Silk Road, which for centuries played an important role in making the economy of the region flourish." According to the Turkish Prime Minister, the economic relations between the two countries would be boosted, with a fourth border to be opened in Dilucu in northeastern Turkey, and a fifth border-crossing, he said, without giving a date for the opening.

"Iran's foreign trade volume is approximately $150 billion," Mehmet Koca, chief executive officer of Gübretaş, told the Daily News.

The Turkish fertilizer industry acquired Iran's Razi Petrochemical in 2008 for 656 million euros. Noting that the business opportunities between the two countries had tremendous growth potential, Koca said, Turkish and Iranian trade volume floats around $10 billion as the total foreign trade volume of Iran has reached approximately $150 billion by last year.

Koca said Turkey has nearly a $3 billion share in Iran's total imports of $60 billion last year. According to Koca, "The figures show that Iran meets nearly 95% of its import demand from countries other than Turkey."

"In recent years, from the attempts of the Turkish government, Turkey has improved trade relations with Iran," said Koca, noting that economic relations gained new momentum thanks to the increasing political and economic influence of Turkey in its hinterland. Koca said that the current trade volumes are still way below their potential; to accelerate the economic relations, "Iran's approach to the world carries significant importance."

"The new border crossings taking place between two countries together with Iranian firms opening new firms in Turkey to penetrate worldwide economies through Turkey demonstrate that the economic relations between Iran and Turkey have developed to a great extent," said Koca.

Turkey's total trade volume with Iran reached $10.6 billion by the end of last year, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TurkStat. Turkey's total export volume to Iran reached nearly $3 billion in the last year, and increase from nearly $2 billion in 2009. Turkey's import volumes also skyrocketed to $7.64 billion in 2010 compared to $3.4 billion in previous year.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said only the Kurds could collapse the policies smelling of exploitation in the Southeast. Erdogan said, "there is no more Kurdish problem in this country. There is the matter of my Kurdish brothers. There is the exploitation of my Kurdish brothers. But they will not be deceived by those tricks and they will spoil the game.


Turkey's pro-Kurdish political party threatened to withdraw from June elections after the election board on Monday vetoed the party's seven candidates, media reports said.

"This is a fascist implementation. We cannot take part in an anti-democratic, unfair election," Selahattin Demirtas, head of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), told to news channel NTV.

Demirtas said his people would discuss all alternatives including their withdrawal of all candidates from elections, Anatolia news agency reported.

Demirtas slammed the veto decision calling it "a state plot" and urged the parliament to postpone the elections, NTV said.

The BDP decided to run with independent candidates in the general elections on June 12, to overcome the 10% threshold. The vetoed candidates include veteran Kurdish politicians Leyla Zana and Hatip Dicle, as well as two current BDP members of parliament.

The High Election Board (YSK) cancelled the candidacy of 12 independent bidders, saying they had former convictions preventing them from running for parliament.

In 1991, Kurdish deputies Dicle and Zana took their oath in the parliament in Kurdish causing an uproar. In 1994 police detained them from the parliament building and they were convicted of being members of a terror organization.

The BDP declared its support for 61 independent candidates and was expecting to have 35 of them in the parliament.

The mainly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey, the BDP's stronghold, has been the scene of a bloody conflict since 1984, when the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took up arms for self-rule, claiming some 45,000 lives.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, announced a unilateral truce in August and then extended it until the general elections to push for a peaceful solution to the conflict.


The decision of the Higher Election Board (YSK) to cancel candidacies of 12 people, who independantly ran for the general elections has destabilized the electoral balance in the Southeastern Anatolia Region. Seven of the 12 independent candidates were supported by the Peace & Democracy Party (BDP). These seven were Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Gultan Kışanak, Sabahat Tuncel, Ertugrul Kurkcu, Isa Gurbuz and Salih Yildiz. The candidacies of these 12 independent applicants were cancelled as they could not be elected lawmakers even if they were pardoned for committing terror crimes against the state under Article 76 of the Constitution. The Peace & Democracy Party (BDP) said, "this is a horror operation. We will discuss whether or not to join elections under these circumstances." The YSK said 12 applicants were not eligible to be elected as lawmakers, and cancelled their candidacies. The list also includes Sabahat Tuncel and Gültan Kışanak, who are actually MPs. YSK said, "Tuncel's criminal record was noted after she was elected as lawmaker in previous elections. It was revealed that Kışanak had a criminal record from her maiden name."


The U.S. Ambassador in Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, said on Monday that Turkey was among top friends of the United States as it upgraded the standards of its democracy, and as a member of NATO and the G20.

Ricciardone responded to the questions of reporters before attending a lunch hosted by the Turkish-American Business Association (TABA/AmCham).

Ricciardone said he was attending the lunch to boost trade and investment between Turkey and the United States.

In his address at the lunch, Ricciardone said he was impressed by the dynamism and energy of the private sector when he had been working in Turkey; and noted that many Turkish small companies did business in Africa, Central Asia and Russia. He said Turkish companies were constructing schools, hospitals, and worker camps extending from Kenya to Kazakhstan under difficult conditions.

He also said that Turkey's ongoing economic success story could be beneficial for long-term relations between Turkey and the United States, with important global companies. He said the strength of Turkey's economy could make a direct contribution to its close alliance with the United States.

The U.S. Ambassador said the U.S. supported the efforts of Turkey to assume a more influential role in the G-20, adding that there was a very big potential in economic relations if one considered that the total trade volume between Turkey and the United States grew 40% in 2010.

Asked to comment on general elections that would take place in Turkey, Ricciardone said he was hopeful for the elections.

Underlining that he has not been in Turkey for 12 years, Ricciardone said that important developments were recorded in Turkey in management, and public policies as well as at national and municipal levels.

He said Turkey would be stronger, as it would have a successful election, noting that the elections had to be good also for the business world.

Ricciardone said Turkey had advanced as global economic power, and had taken steps on the way to being a first class democracy. He said elections would make a contribution to "rule of law."

Asked what kind of a cooperation Turkish and U.S. companies could make on nuclear energy and renewable energy, Ricciardone said nuclear energy was still a controversial matter throughout the world, adding that the U.S. also attached high importance to the matter.


The main opposition has hit out hard at the government's foreign policy, calling it "inconsistent" and "unprincipled," and warning that continuing down the same path will alienate Turkey from the rest of the world.

"This [path] is very dangerous. These policies may bring Turkey into a dead end," former Ambassador Faruk Loğoğlu, a foreign-policy advisor to the head of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a recent interview.

"Shouting at everyone could make a splash in Turkish domestic politics and turn into votes at home, but it will make Turkey lose in the end," Loğoğlu said, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's address last week at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Erdoğan's tough responses there to questions posed by European politicians had repercussions both at home and abroad, sending shockwaves through the European body, and reflected in the Turkish media as a second "one minute" moment, in reference to his outburst toward Israeli President Shimon Peres at the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos.

"Today all countries implement foreign policy in order to establish good relations, not to offend each other," said Loğoğlu, who served as Turkish ambassador to Washington from 2001 to 2005 and is running for Parliament as a CHP deputy in the June 12 general election.

The use of such rhetoric in foreign policy could create a backlash even in the Arab world, where Erdoğan often enjoys popularity, and cause Turkey to lose its dignity, Loğoğlu said. He added that a Turkey that parts ways with both the Arab world and the West would become isolated.

"The ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] policies are lacking in consistency and principles, while the CHP policies are based upon the [Turkish] Republic's fundamental principles such as the rule of law, democracy and human rights," said Loğoğlu.

If elected, the main opposition pledges to implement foreign policy that is result-oriented, serious and calm, creating a Turkey that does not fight but gains everyone's friendship and whose words are heeded, he said.

Loğoğlu also criticized Erdoğan's objective of making Turkey into a leader. "You cannot make a country a leader," he said. "If you try to do so, that would be wrong. That country's policies make it a leader," he said.

The former ambassador was nominated by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as a deputy candidate on the top of the party's list for Adana, the Mediterranean Turkish province that is the veteran diplomat's hometown.

"I consider the office of parliamentarian as an instrument to serve the Turkish people," Loğoğlu said. "There are two goals: contributing to a solution to Turkey's problems based on the CHP's vision and projects and making Adana into an industry and tourism center like it was in the 1960s and the 1970s."

State Minister Ali Babacan said he would form the monetary policy to ensure price stability of the Central Bank. Babacan said, "we do not have arguments with the banks. State makes regulations and banks abide by them. Sanctions will be imposed on those that do not abide by them."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who addressed a meeting of Justice & Development (AK) Party candidates in Ankara, criticized the opposition.
"They could not find a candidate from outside and they transferred a candidate from Silivri Prison. They decided to open a contact office of Ergenekon under their own party," he said.


The U.S. assistant secretary of state said on Monday that Turkey was a part of the NATO's Libya mission.

Philip Gordon said, "As a part of the alliance and bilaterally, we're in very close touch with the Turkish Government about aims and means, and Turkey is absolutely on board for this common mission at NATO."

"On the first part, I would note Turkey was one of the 28 allies and six partners that signed up to this very specific commitment that I outlined," Gordon told a press conference on NATO's Berlin ministerial gathering.

Gordon said Turkey was also one of the 28 allies that agreed to enforce the no-fly zone; to enforce the arms embargo, and to carry out militarily protecting the civilian mission, including with common NATO assets of which Turkey owned a part.

"And so let's just be clear, Turkey is a part of this mission; they embraced – indeed they were one of the strongest voices for NATO taking over the mission. And so as a part of the alliance and bilaterally we're in very close touch with the Turkish Government about aims and means, and Turkey is absolutely on board for this common mission at NATO," he said.

He continued, "I refer back to what has come out of Doha and Berlin, and Turkey was a key part of all of that."

What was clear and what all of these governments had signed up to was the basic principle that Qadhafi needed to go, Gordon said. "So any discussions that have been had – it is true that a couple of envoys from Tripoli have gone off and had discussions, and we understand that they are hearing the same thing everywhere they have gone, including Turkey.

"And so I think the line of the international community there is pretty clear. And look at the Chair's statement out of Doha, where it was said that Qadhafi has lost all legitimacy, and needs to leave power, and leave the future of Libya up to an inclusive political process for the people of Libya," he said.

"The NATO governments, the 28 allies plus the six partners who were there, including Turkey, signed up to a statement that strongly endorsed those conclusions in Doha, and I think the United States was adequately clear as well, that Qadhafi needs to leave power.

"And I think that's what they hear from us. Any envoys or emissaries that have come out of Tripoli have heard just that in unison from the international community. And where Benghazi and the TNC (Transitional National Council) is concerned, the TNC has links to a number of countries – has been engaged in dialogue with a number of countries, including us. Secretary Clinton has twice met with Mahmoud Jibril, who's an important representative of the TNC. Mr. Jibril spoke to the Doha conference. He was in London at a number of side meetings with ministers. In Doha, he actually spoke to the assembled foreign ministers and presented his vision – the TNC's vision – of the future of Libya, and has received significant support. And Turkey has been a part of that process together with us and many others," Gordon also said.

Khaled Mashall, head of the Hamas's political bureau in Damascus, replied to questions of Turkiye daily newspaper. He has been away from his homeland for 36 years. He is the leader of Hamas in exile. He said he thought of visiting Turkey for Necmettin Erbakan's funeral, however he had changed his mind as Turkey might face problems due to that visit.
Mashall said, "We are ready to accept any proposal of Turkey that can unite groups in Palestine without laying down any preconditions." Mashall, who had met Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently, said Turkey's views were important for Palestine.
Mashall said, "Ankara wants Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad to be a whole. We are saying yes to Turkey in advance in order to be together with our brothers."


Migration to Israel and a death rate twice that of new births are causing a decrease in the size of the Jewish community in Turkey, according to its representatives.

Economic considerations are the main drivers behind migration, and are also a factor in the decision by many students studying abroad not to return to Turkey after completing their education, representatives of the 20,000-strong Jewish community have said.

Mortality is also a major factory in the community's dwindling population. A total of 129 Jews in Turkey died between September and April, while 60 were born during the same period.

According to the "Ones from Turkey," a group founded by Jewish migrants from Turkey to Israel, 101 people moved permanently from Turkey to Israel in 2010, part of a slow but continuing shift that has seen eight more people relocate in the first two months of 2011.

The group works to help the increasing number of immigrants adapt to their new lives in Israel. Young immigrants can play on the "Children of Turkey" (Yeladey Yotsei Turkia) football team, which is coached by İzak Adato, formerly of the Turkish football squad Fenerbahçe's youth team, according to Şalom, the weekly publication of the Jewish community in Turkey. Adato also coaches a team for 14-year-olds called: Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The "Children of Turkey" come to the pitch with a Turkish flag during their games. They played their first match recently against Bet Arye and won eight to six.

The "Ones from Turkey" also help new immigrants by providing them with household goods, cleaning products and food, in what they call a "first needs package." The group offers assistance dealing with the Israeli bureaucracy to get identity papers and social security numbers, and it provides language courses for those who need them.


Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday met his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store, in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Appearing in a joint press conference after the meeting, Davutoglu said that today's gathering discussed issues concerning the Middle East, Afghanistan, and the Balkans.

"We have very special relations between Turkey and Norway. And we are exerting joint efforts to secure peace and stability in all those regions," Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu said trade volume between the two countries hovered around 1.1 billion USD, adding that Turkish and Norwegian governments both had the political will to boost it.

Davutoglu also said they discussed developments concerning Libya, adding that he believed Norway could have a major part to play in efforts for peace in the Middle East.

Store, for his part, said Turkey was an important part of the international agenda-setting, adding that there was "a great potential" for cooperation between Turkey and Norway.

On Libya, Store said the multinational intervention was a necessity, adding that the political process should commence in the shortest possible time.


Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said that attacks on Libyan city of Misrata which resulted in killing of civilians should end immediately.

"Our priority in Libya is to improve the living conditions of Libyan people, prevent attacks on civilians and reach a permanent solution," Davutoglu told a joint news conference, together with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Store, in Ankara on Monday.

"The international community including NATO is against the killing of civilians. NATO should do its utmost to stop attacks on civilians. Attacks, especially on Misrata, should be ended immediately," he added.

Clashes between rebels and the Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's forces in Misrata in western Libya have left scores of people dead. Government troops have been laying siege to the city on Libya's Mediterranean coast for weeks, prompting repeated international warnings of a dire humanitarian situation. The NATO-led air campaign authorized by the U.N. to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone has failed to stop the [Libyan] government's shelling that has hit Misrata's hospital, the port and residential areas. The Libyan government has come under sharp international criticism for its assault on Misrata, and has been accused by human rights groups of using heavy weapons, including shells, missiles and cluster bombs.


Russia's Ambassador in Ankara, Vladimir Ivanovskiy, has estimated that the number of Russians to visit Turkey could reach four million this year.

"Last year three million Russian tourists visited Turkey. Now that visa-free travel is underway, we are expecting that figure to reach four million this year," Ivanovskiy told reporters during a meeting with Huseyin Aksoy, governor of the Black Sea port city of Samsun.

Ivanovskiy also said that Russia was ready to exert any effort to increase the trade volume with Turkey, adding that the two countries aimed at increasing the trade volume to $100 billion USD. Last year, the trade volume between Turkey and Russia was $26 billion USD.

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