Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN: Iran and Turkey have differences on issues such as Syria. What are their impacts on relations between the two states?
BIGDELI: Fortunately, the differences in views of the two states on the developments in Iraq, Syria, the Caucasus and Balkan have been manageable. The leaders of both states have agreed to try to narrow the differences and increase the commonalities. Concurrent with the expansion of economic ties and the 23-billion-dollar trade transactions, Iran and Turkey need to create an equilibrium in their ties from competition to interaction. To achieve this important objective, confidence-building measures in political, security and economic fields were put on the agenda. Setting up a high council for relations, holding joint commissions and forming a trilateral committee consisting of Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan are among the steps taken to this end. If we can cooperate in introducing solutions to regional crises, we will achieve our goal in confidence-building between the two sides. This is our goal in political relations and we hope that this is achieved along with our economic objective to attain 30-billion-dollar trade transactions by 2015. We need to come to a common language on issues including the support for Palestine, fighting terrorism and extremism, and resolving regional issues.
Many countries, including Iran, have objected to Turkey's policy on issues such as the occupation of the northern Syrian city of Kobani by ISIL terrorist group. What was Turkey's main objective in adopting a passive policy on the crisis in Kobani?
When the ISIL expanded its assaults from Syria to Iraq and attacked the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Samara, Turkey was on the threshold of holding its presidential election and 49 of its consulate staff in Mosul were detained by ISIL. To go through this critical period, Turkey pursued a special policy which raised doubts about this country. The media opposed to the Turkish government also spread these doubts. Meanwhile, domestic political rivalry was also effective in creating such an image of Turkey. It was expected that following the presidential election and the release of the kidnapped Turkish nationals, Turkey would change its policies toward the terrorists very soon. However, the advance of ISIL toward Kobani near the border with Turkey brought about fresh considerations into the equations for the country. Turkey has considered three threats against it in the region namely 'Bashar al-Assad', 'the Democratic Union Party' and 'ISIL terrorism'. While, regional countries and the US-led coalition were trying to depict terrorism as the greatest threat and counter it, Turkey tried not to go along with the interests of the West and use the situation to repel these (mentioned) threats. The bargaining between Turkey and members of the coalition extended and during this time the human catastrophe of Kobani took place which hurt public opinion.
Turkey suspected that it did its responsibility by giving shelter to 200,000 Kobani refugees, but the Kurds were expecting the country to use its military capacity to counter ISIL terrorist and create a corridor for sending Turkish Kurdish forces from Turkey to Kobani or at least assist in dispatching military and humanitarian aid to Kurdish fighters defending Kobani.
On the other hand, Turkey was expecting the international community to accept its conditions to create a no-fly zone over Syria and topple [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad. In any case, sad incidents took place in Turkey in October and we should consider them as a new factor in the country's evaluation of regional developments.
Do you believe that the efforts to bring the views of Turkey and Iraq closer are enough?
The efforts are enough once an appropriate result is achieved. Both states are in consultations on regional political and security issues. Even a framework is formed to narrow the differences and increase commonalities in this way. It was agreed that representatives of both states would work on a joint draft on cooperation to resolve regional issues. I think that the growth of terrorism in the region, including in Iraq and Syria, and the determination of both states to counter the threat of terrorism can bring the positions of Iran and Turkey closer.
Why have the two states failed to narrow their differences on important regional issues despite numerous commonalities?
Like Iran, Turkey is an important and influential country in the Middle East especially on the issue of Syria. In the early months of the crisis in Syria, Turkey's policies were based on the notion that the Syrian crisis could not be resolved with the presence of Mr. Bashar al-Assad. By supporting the opponents of the Syrian government, Turkey gave up its role of impartiality which could have been effective in reaching a viable ceasefire in Syria. The region and Syria were in urgent need of this role. If Turkey had been impartial toward developments in Syria, it could have played an important role as a mediator between the government and opponents in Syria.
The chance for peace would have been promoted, if Turkey was neutral. In this case, Turkey could increase its influence in Syria and the Arab world. Iran could also stand alongside Turkey. In another word, the image of this country would have been different.
What is your assessment of the outlook of ties between the two countries?
Fueling differences is not the policy of the officials of Iran and Turkey. During centuries of coexistence between the two states, they reached an understanding in balancing relations on the basis of friendship. Neighbors are important for both states, but the level of mutual relations is excellent despite the ups and downs in the ties between Iran and Turkey.