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Turkey seeks mediating role in Iran conflict 27 mars 2012

Posted by Acturca in Economy / Economie, Energy / Energie, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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Deutsche Welle (Germany) 27 March 2012

Taher Mohammadi

Turkey’s Prime Minister heads to Tehran for talks about Syria. But Recep Erdogan also wants to lobby for new diplomatic efforts to solve the nuclear conflict with Iran.

Recep Erdogan heads straight to Tehran for high-level talks following his attendance at the nuclear security summit in Seoul. Turkey has repeatedly thrown its weight behind a diplomatic solution to the nuclear conflict with Iran. It is advocating that negotiations restart between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

A year ago, Turkey hosted these talks in Istanbul. But they yielded no results. On the contrary, the confrontation between Iran and the international community became even more rigid. Erdogan’s visit on Wednesday is a yet another attempt to break the deadlock.

A catch-22 situation

On the eve of the summit in Seoul, US President Barack Obama and Erdogan met for bilateral talks on various issues. In reference to the conflict with Iran, Obama said time was running out.

« I believe there is a window of time to solve this diplomatically but that window is closing, » Obama told reporters.

Günter Seufert, an expert on Turkey at Berlin’s German Institute for International and Security Affairs SWP, said he saw Turkey in a catch-22 situation when it came to its Iran policy. Since Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party AKP took over power in 2003, Turkey has repeatedly attempted to solve regional conflicts within the region.

« This was the case in the attack on Saddam Hussein, during the civil war in Libya and at the beginning in Syria, » Seufert said. « This regularly fails, then there’s a confrontation during which Turkey ultimately takes sides with the West and acts together with the US and NATO. »

Erdogan was now acting according to this pattern, in view of the growing Iranian nuclear conflict in which a military option is increasingly coming to the fore, Seufert said.

« Precisely in order to demonstrate that he, Erdogan, is committed to a diplomatic solution – also in order to hold out a bit against the increasing pressure from the US, » Seufert said.

A significant trade partner

Turkey plays a special role in the nuclear conflict with Iran as it did not participate in the most recent round of sanctions imposed by the US and the EU. These include a halt on Iranian oil imports. Turkey draws around one-third of its oil from Iran and one-fifth of its natural gas. Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz recently made it clear that it was not possible for Turkey to stop importing Iranian oil before it found new suppliers.

Trade volumes between Iran and Turkey have doubled over the past five years, currently totaling some $10 billion (7.5 billion euros). Both sides expect trade to grow further – as high as $30 billion.

Arif Keskin from the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies in Ankara said that Turkey in view of this situation was opposed to one-sided European and US sanctions against Iran. This could, however, change if the Turkish economy were to suffer from US and European punitive measures. Ankara at the moment though assumes that the US will spare Turkey from threatened sanctions, such as the exclusion from bank transactions, even though it is not following the oil embargo.

Turkey’s geopolitical significance

According to Seufert the US is well aware of the fact that Turkey is greatly needed in the entire Mideast.

« There is a limit to the amount of pressure that can be put on Turkey, » Seufert said. « I don’t think that the US will force Turkey to take part in the sanctions against Iran, simply because it needs a strong and prospering Turkey in the Middle East. A concerted western action, for example in the case of Syria, is impossible without Turkey’s participation and Turkey is also needed as a counterbalance to Iran in Iraq. »

But Seufert added that neither the close economic ties between Turkey and Iran nor the persistent diplomatic efforts by Turkey and the West could put Iran off from its path, pointing to the planned NATO anti-missile defense shield in Turkey.

« This is already an answer by the West to Iran’s foreseeable nuclear capacity, » he said.

Author: Taher Mohammadi / sac
Editor: Rob Mudge


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