The meeting was closed to the press and no statement has been made regarding its content yet. The gathering was previously scheduled for Wednesday evening but was postponed to today after Ahmadinejad reportedly fell ill.
Speaking after talks with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi on Wednesday, Erdoğan defended nations’ right to acquire nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and rejected any outside “imposition” to prevent countries from doing so.
Turkey, which calls for a negotiated settlement to an international dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, is willing to host the next round of talks between Iran and major international powers – the P5+1 group of US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
Speaking ahead of talks with Ahmadinajed, Erdoğan said the venue of the talks is still unclear. Iran supports talks taking place in İstanbul while the P5+1 group is seeking a European venue. On Wednesday, Erdoğan has said there were “positive developments” regarding the P5+1’s stance towards having the talks in İstanbul.
Erdoğan and Rahimi also discussed trade ties and agreed to enhance them. Erdoğan and Rahimi also announced readiness to increase the bilateral trade volume from the current $16 billion to $35 billion by the end of 2015.
Erdoğan also met with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and is expected to have talks with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later on Thursday.
Erdoğan’s meeting with Ahmadinejad came as Arab leaders gathered in Baghdad to discuss Syria. Neither Iran nor Turkey has been invited to the summit, the first Arab League summit hosted in Baghdad since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Turkey and Iran have been at odds over Syria, with Turkey seeking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster while Iran firmly backing his rule. There was no word on Syria in Erdoğan’s talks with Iranian officials on Wednesday.
Iraq’s Shiite-led government, which has close ties to Assad’s ally Iran, has complained of Turkish interference in its domestic affairs. Gulf countries, on the other hand, are suspicious of Iranian influence in Iraq and criticize Iranian support for the Assad regime. The emir of Kuwait is the only Gulf Arab leader attending the summit in Baghdad, with others sending lower-level officials in what Qatar said was a “message.”
Qatar is one of six Sunni-led Gulf Arab nations whose relations with Iraq have been fraught with tension because of Baghdad's close ties with Shiite Iran and its ambivalence on Syria, where the United Nations says at least 9,000 people have died since an anti-Assad uprising began a year ago.