Within the context of his tour in the Caucasus region, Iranian Prime Minister Javad Zarif met with Turkish Prime Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on 29 January in Istanbul. The meeting came after Zarif visited Azerbaijani, Russian, Armenian, and Georgian officials, respectively.
Prior to the meeting between both ministers, many speculations were made as to what would be discussed in the meeting in Istanbul. Among these, the aftermath of the second Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was expected as a primary topic of discussion. Iran, which had a significant presence in the Nagorno-Karabakh region during its Armenian occupation through Iranian companies, is said to be concerned with the future of these companies following the liberation of the region in the past months. At the same time, the formation of a new intraregional platform was expected to be on the books, in which Turkey, as well as the other countries in the Caucasus region, would be involved.
Significant talks on bilateral relations were also expected to be on the table. Relations took a downturn when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cited a nationalistic poem during a victory parade in Baku. The poem was met with strong criticism from Tehran, which accused Turkey of attempting to entice Pan-Turkic sentiments among the Azerbaijani Turks in the northern provinces, in an attempt to divide Iran. Although these tensions later subsided, it was expected that FM Zarif would touch upon the reasons for the recitation of the poem. Also, talks on the Biden administration and the respective sanctions implemented were noted as a likely aspect of the talks.
Following the joint press conference made by both ministers, most of the talking points assumed beforehand were confirmed to have been discussed. In the context of the Caucasus region, both ministers confirmed that a dialogue platform in the format of 3+3 was touched upon. In addition, both ministers expressed the value in regional cooperation and multilateral relations. Other regional issues, most notably the civil war in Syria and recent developments within Iraq were also mentioned during the press conference. In this regard, Zarif underlined the replacement of conflict with dialogue in the case of Syria. Meanwhile, relations with Azerbaijan in a trilateral sense were briefly mentioned by Çavuşoğlu, although details on the discussion were not mentioned. On the other hand, exchanges on the new Biden administration were plenty. Both ministers voiced their support to each other, with regards to the sanctions implemented by the US. Çavuşoğlu, specifically stated his hope that the US will take the necessary actions to reinstate the function of the JCPOA, which it previously withdrew from under Trump.
Elsewhere, talks on the bilateral level were based primarily on logistical and economic interactions. Ministers on both sides highlighted the importance of trade and transportation between the two states. Even though the two ministers expressed discussions in the political sense as well, no information was given on the details of the subjects discussed. Conclusively, the Zarif-Çavuşoğlu talks were heavy on the regional and international agendas rather than bilateral relations, which have been pushed to future discussions between the two parties.