ANKARA: Turkey Has Been Involved In Iran Nuclear Talks, Babacan Says


Zaman Online
July 18 2008

US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says the US and Turkey
have a strong partnership that Washington is committed to strengthening

Turkey is ready to contribute to efforts to find a peaceful settlement
to an international conflict over neighboring Iran’s nuclear program
and has been in talks with the relevant parties for about a month,
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said after talks with a senior US
official yesterday.

Speaking after meeting with US National Security Advisor Stephen
Hadley, Babacan said Turkey was pressing for a solution through
dialogue and ready to assist efforts in that direction. "Turkey is
ready to do whatever the parties expect it to do. Indeed, we have
been in intense contacts over the past month," Babacan said, adding,
"We want this issue to be handled through dialogue."

Hadley’s visit to Ankara came just a day ahead of Iranian Foreign
Minister Manouchehr Mottaki today. On Saturday Iran’s nuclear
negotiator, Saeed Jalili, will meet with European Union foreign policy
chief Javier Solana and envoys from China, Russia, France, Britain
and Germany in Geneva to discuss Iran’s response to an offer made
by world powers last month to encourage it to give up its sensitive
nuclear work, which the West believes is aimed at building a nuclear
bomb and Tehran says is for peaceful power-generation purposes.

In a major policy shift, the United States said it was also sending a
representative, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William
Burns, to the talks.

Babacan said he had met with colleagues from the six nations attending
Saturday’s talks as well as Solana over the past few weeks. "We have
talking with both sides on all aspects of the package," he said,
stressing that Turkey had good relations with both the six nations
and Iran.

Turkey has also been mediating between Syria and Israel, a role praised
by the United States and regional countries. Prospects emerged for a
similar role in regard to the international row over Iran’s nuclear
program when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that
Turkey could be asked to mediate between the West and Iran.

Iran’s nuclear program will be one of the issues that Turkish officials
will discuss with Mottaki today, Babacan said. Turkish and Iranian
officials said the talks will focus on current regional issues.

Babacan is expected to visit Tehran to attend a ministerial meeting
of the Non-Aligned Movement on July 28-31. But he said in televised
remarks on Wednesday night that there had not yet been a final decision
on the visit.

The US and Israel have not ruled out a military strike on Iran if
it does not give up uranium enrichment and heed UN Security Council
demands aimed at dispelling fears that Tehran wants to make nuclear

Turkey is against nuclear weapons in the region but says countries
have the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Hadley, who did not make any comments about Iran, expressed condolences
for the three Turkish policemen who were killed during a terrorist
attack on the US Consulate General in Ä°stanbul last week after a
meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan. He also met President Abdullah
Gul before wrapping up his visit.

Hadley said Turkey and the US were united in fighting terrorism,
including the struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK), which he described as a "common enemy" of the United States
and Turkey. Babacan said Middle East issues, Iraq, Israel-Syria peace
efforts, the Cyprus process and relations with Armenia were all on
the agenda in his talks with Hadley.

Praise for reforms

Hadley, meanwhile, praised political and economic reforms by Turkey
to strengthen its bid for membership in the European Union. "Turkey
has made some important democratic political reforms and free market
economic reforms in the last several years and the United States
believes strongly that this reform effort should continue," Hadley
said. "This reform effort is supported by the people of Turkey and it
will also bring Turkey closer to the European Union," he added. "The
United States strongly supports membership for Turkey in the EU."

The comments came as Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party
(AK Party) faces closure by the Constitutional Court on charges
of anti-secular activity. The court may deliver a verdict as soon
as August and some say a decision to disband the party could throw
the country into turmoil. The party has long denied that it has an
Islamic agenda.

Hinting at US opposition to a possible decision to close down the AK
Party, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last month that
Washington’s relations with the AK Party government was "excellent"
and praised the Turkish ruling party for the reforms it has carried
out and reaching out to Turkey’s Kurds and religious people.

Hadley also said the United States and Turkey have a strong
strategic partnership, which Washington is committed to further
strengthening. Turkish-US relations, strained in past years over
the PKK presence in northern Iraq, began to improve last year after
President George W. Bush declared the PKK a "common enemy." The United
States has been sharing intelligence on the PKK to assist the Turkish
military’s anti-PKK operations in northern Iraq since last December.

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