Monday, September 27, 2004

Daily Times - Iran wants cordial ties with Turkey

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Iran wants cordial ties with Turkey

TEHRAN: Iran’s embattled President Mohammad Khatami has telephoned Turkey’s president and prime minister in a bid to ease the diplomatic fallout of his dispute with the Islamic republic’s hardliners over foreign investment, state media reported on Monday.

Khatami had been due to travel to Turkey on Tuesday, but was forced to make an embarrassing last-minute postponement after the conservative-run Iranian parliament threw into doubt two major contracts signed with Turkish companies.

Deputies gave themselves the power to veto an airport operating contract signed with a Turkish-led consortium and a deal signed with Turkcell, Turkey’s biggest mobile phone operator, to set up the first Iranian private mobile phone network. Sunday’s vote was an embarrassing blow to Khatami, but he was quoted as telling Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezar and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he was obliged to abide by the Majlis decision. “While I respect bilateral relations between our two nations, I also have high regard for the decision of the Majlis and view my acceptance of such a decision as a token to democracy,” Khatami was quoted as explaining.

“Our parliament is keen to expand bilateral ties between the our countries and what has happened is a natural disagreement,” he added, adding, “The Majlis has not annulled the deals.”

He also tried to reassure Turkey that “a resolution between the government and Majlis will be soon worked out, thus preparing the ground for my trip to Turkey and stronger relations than before”.

Turkcell was awarded the contract in a tender in February to become — under the name Iran cell — Iranan’s second mobile phone operator. The deal is conditional on the payment of a 300-million-euro licence fee.

The company would be expected to invest up to three billion dollars in the project, which would rank among the largest foreign investments in Iran since the Islamic revolution 25 years ago. The parliament bill also targets a 200-million-dollar contract with Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV) — an Turkish-Austrian consortium — for construction and operations at Imam Khomeini International Airport."

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