Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan escaped from a sweeping graft probe at home to visit Iran in hopes of easing tensions over the region’s handling of Syria’s civil war, state media reported Wednesday.
Erdogan flew to Iran with a delegation of economy, energy and foreign ministers to meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. The election of Rouhani last June has led to improved ties with the West even as he and Western leaders remain starkly divided on the Syrian conflict.
Iran is a top Syria ally and has repeatedly defended President Bashar Assad but Turkey, which has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, favors the opposition.
Part of Erdogan’s visit included the signing of five trade deals, including oil and gas agreements. Should international sanctions imposed against Iran be pulled back, Reuters reports, Turkey stands to gain from imports of oil and natural gas. Iran would also become one of the largest markets for those resources, opening it up to crucial foreign investment.
A widespread bribery and corruption scandal has enveloped Erdogan’s government since late last year, resulting in the swift dismissal of hundreds of police officers and four government ministers. As the spotlight has since turned to his inner circle, specifically his son Bilal, Erdogan has accused members of the Islamic movement of targeting his administration ahead of local elections in March. Turkey also doubled its interest rate Tuesday to stabilize its currency.