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05-31-2010, 05:14 AM
Turkey: Turkey defends its Iran move as ‘the right track

Ankara, (Todays Zaman):

Certain arguments put forward after a Monday deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil in which Iran agreed to ship much of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey echoed an understanding similar to debates on Turkey’s multidimensional foreign policy.

This policy, which has gained particular visibility during the term of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) since it came to power in 2002, has already been the subject of debates on whether Turkey has shifted its traditional axis from the West to some new frontiers.

With the deal not easing concerns in the West that Iran’s nuclear program has military dimensions primarily because Tehran has said it will continue to enrich uranium to higher levels and a US-led coalition pushing for sanctions against Tehran to force it to stop enriching uranium, eyes have turned to Ankara, with some claiming that the Turkish capital has not been sufficiently coordinating with the West, particularly Washington, in its efforts concerning Iran.

Some suggested that the deal moves these two influential non-permanent UN Security Council members, namely Brazil and Turkey, closer to Tehran and presents the US and its Western allies with a bloc of developing nations that back Iran’s right to pursue a nuclear program. Some others offered that the move, particularly on the part of Turkey, had the spirit of an unofficially declared Non-Aligned Movement.

“We don’t need any label. We act according to principles laid out as part of our vision regarding the region,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Burak Özügergin told Sunday’s Zaman on Friday when reminded of aforementioned arguments concerning Turkey’s role in the Iran fuel swap deal.

Also on Friday, disclosing a letter sent by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan to US President Barack Obama, Ankara firmly defended its attempt to resolve the nuclear standoff between Iran and the Western powers, led by the US.

“The [joint] declaration [signed by Iran, Brazil and Turkey] has not closed the file on Iran’s nuclear program but has opened an important door for a solution through diplomatic means,” Erdoðan’s press office quoted him as saying in the letter. “Turkey will continue its efforts for the solution of the problem and will pursue the issue,” Erdoðan said, while his office noted that the letter has also given details of the uranium deal.

The right track

Earlier this week, during a daily press briefing, US State Department Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley was challenged by a journalist concerning Washington’s unwillingness to embrace the fuel swap deal.

“And I’m wondering why, if, in fact, you think that this Brazil-Turkey deal -- Iran will prove that it’s not serious and you don’t have a lot of optimism that it’s going to go forward and Iran will continue to show that it’s not serious about its nuclear ambitions, why don’t you just wait for that to play out and then you could get a tougher resolution and even presumably Brazil and Turkey would vote for it because Iran would have humiliated them and embarrassed them? Why don’t you just wait to see how that plays out?” the journalist asked.

“We’ve had two tracks to our strategy -- the diplomatic track, the pressure track. We think they’re interrelated. So we will see what Iran comes forward with to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] over the next several days. I think one of the telling aspects of how we have reached consensus within the P-5+1 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain -- plus Germany] was the fact that Iran made the bold declaration over the weekend -- something that our ambassadors had heard at dinner with [Iranian] Foreign Minister [Manouchehr] Mottaki in New York -- that notwithstanding any prospective deal on the Tehran research reactor, Iran will continue to enrich uranium. And that is, as we said yesterday, a clear -- it’s in defiance of five Security Council resolutions,” Crowley said in response, in an apparent bid to justify the US-led attempt for sanctions.

When asked whether US officials have ever indicated that the move by Turkey and Brazil torpedoed their two-track diplomacy, a senior Turkish diplomat first noted that in today’s multilateral world, there is no doubt that anyone would move to resolve any problem on their own.

“The Obama administration’s distinctive mark is multilateralism, anyway. Hence, no one is asking us why we opened a track. Furthermore, no one has a monopoly on efforts aimed at easing tension. One should ask whether manners escalating tensions or efforts reducing tensions are more appropriate,” the senior diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Sunday’s Zaman.

“If there is a track to be favored, it must be ours,” the diplomat added.

“Nonetheless, Turkey is by no means playing to become leader of certain countries. If Turkey had kept a foot in all camps while dealing with the nuclear issue, then labels attributed to it could be accepted. But no, we’re telling all the parties the same thing, and if this stance of ours is convincing for some countries, so be it,” the same diplomat said.

“The deal brokered in Tehran has taken away the legitimacy card in the hands of those countries that wished to put Iran into a corner regardless of what the circumstances are,” the diplomat said.

A Western diplomat, meanwhile, told Sunday’s Zaman that P5+1 was kept fully aware of every step Turkey has taken and that Turkey was also aware of sanctions talks held among the UN Security Council.

“There’s nothing surprising here. We welcome the agreements and look forward to enhanced cooperation between the IAEA and Iran on an inspections regime as well. We certainly understand Turkey’s position as Iran is a neighbor and an important trading partner,” the diplomat added.

Resistance to overcoming psychological threshold

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu, speaking in an interview with the NTV news station late on Tuesday -- which means that he was speaking after he heard that the US had handed the UN Security Council a draft resolution that would expand UN sanctions against Iran -- said talk of sanctions was premature because the deal with Iran had created an “important psychological threshold” of trust.

“Negotiations with Iran are tough. In fact, chess is a game that was invented in Iran,” Davutoðlu said, indicating that Ankara considers it normal that there is resistance to overcoming this threshold by those countries that envisioned a certain scenario being followed regarding the issue.

While refraining from directly commenting on the US-led proposal, the minister said hesitation and caution is natural in such a situation. Hypothetical scenarios have been disrupted because all parameters regarding the issue have changed, he added.

On Monday, the day when the deal in Tehran was announced, Laura Rozen of Politics, Political News - POLITICO.com (http://www.politico.com) questioned why the Obama administration hadn’t been “publicly celebrating” the Iran nuclear fuel swap. In her article, titled “Obama’s nuclear headache,” Rozen quoted Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Pentagon official, as saying: “Of course they are not thrilled. They thought [the Brazilian-Turkish diplomatic effort with Tehran] was going to fail and didn’t stop it, or couldn’t stop it. It looks like it undercut their diplomacy. Now, in their heart of hearts, did they want it to be undercut? Maybe some of them, who thought the sanctions aren’t going to work.”

A Turkish diplomat closely involved in the making of the Iran fuel swap deal was rather blunt in remarks defending Turkey’s stance on the issue and scenarios put forth by some.

“No offense if we spoiled the game plan in some minds -- a game plan that is obviously erroneous. And when it comes to the United States, I’m sorry, but they are notorious for having erroneous game plans,” the diplomat, who asked to not be identified, told Sunday’s Zaman.

Recalling how Ankara was criticized at the time over the Turkish Parliament’s rejection of a government motion on March 1, 2003 to allow US troops to open up a northern front against Iraq from Turkey, thus leading to the reference “the March 1 syndrome” when talking about the bilateral relationship of the two NATO allies, the diplomat showed Washington’s Iraq policy at the time as an example of erroneous policies pursued by Washington.

“US officials have been in constant contact now and hold regular consultations with Turkey on the Iraq issue. Time will prove that we are on the right track on the Iran issue as well,” the diplomat said.