Iranian foreign minister to conclude Central Asia tour

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will conclude a four-day trip to Central Asia today in Turkmenistan. Zarif’s visit likely sought

Photo: Iranian government/ NBC News

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will conclude a four-day trip to Central Asia today in Turkmenistan.

Zarif’s visit likely sought to counterbalance growing Turkish influence in Central Asia, following Azerbaijan’s military victory over ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. Iran worries increased Turkish clout in the area could undermine its own regional influence.

Zarif’s tour also follows last week’s virtual Turkic Council Summit, where Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey agreed to significantly enhance cooperation, even discussing the potential establishment of a Turkic investment fund. Both Iran and Turkey cite cultural and historical commonalities to justify diplomatic courtship of Central Asia.

Expect Tehran to push with renewed urgency for the establishment of an Iran-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Oman transport corridor. Iran hopes such a development will counter ongoing preparations for a Turkey-Azerbaijan transit route that will likely expand to connect Ankara with Central Asia. Tehran may also augment imports of Turkmen electricity as it moves to enhance its regional commercial relationships. In the longer-term, expect Iran to look for increased coordination with its Russian and Chinese partners in Central Asia, especially regarding transportation and trade corridors, as all three share concerns about Turkey’s growing regional clout.

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