‘US concerns over swap deal related to domestic politics’

May 25, 2010, Tuesday/ 15:50:00/ HÜSEYİN GÜLERCE
President Abdullah Gül has said the United States’ reaction to Iran’s nuclear fuel swap deal sealed in Tehran a week ago was related to domestic politics.The president said the swap deal was a “requirement” of the EU, the Vienna Group (the US, Russia, France and the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]), the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, China, Russia, France and Britain plus Germany), and the international community.  “Their reaction, as I see it, is related to domestic politics,” Gül stressed while speaking to a group of journalists en route to Kazakhstan on Sunday.

Observers believe US President Barack Obama wants to placate the Republicans during the midterm congressional elections in November. The Republicans criticize Obama for having a weak national security policy vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Despite different views on Iran, Gül said the US is Turkey’s ally and that they are very aware of the cost of the Iraq war to Turkey, adding that it is in Turkey’s national interest to solve Iran’s nuclear dispute through diplomacy.

Gül also ruled out claims that Turkey wants to show itself off in the international arena by taking on a role in the nuclear crisis. Saying that US President Obama is following a policy of “engagement,” repudiating his predecessor George W. Bush’s “You are either with us or against us” rhetoric, Gül said Obama should embrace his policies, implying that he needs to endorse the nuclear deal agreed with Iran under Brazilian and Turkish mediation.

Iran on May 17 agreed to ship 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in a nuclear fuel swap deal that could ease the international standoff over this country’s disputed nuclear program and head off a US-led push for tougher sanctions in the UN Security Council.

Saying that the nuclear swap deal is a confidence-building measure, Gül said other issues will need to be discussed following this step. He said it is not proper to immediately reject the deal. “The end of any path other than this is war,” he emphasized.

Also speaking about the stalled reconciliation process with Armenia, Gül said it is important to work silently and decisively. “Today’s status quo is [working] against all countries related [to the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process]. Silent work continues [to advance the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process],” the president noted. He also avoided commenting on newly elected Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, noting that he himself is no longer a politician.

Asked what Turkey’s most important problem is, Gül said the Kurdish issue. “It needs to be solved with maturity. Terrorism has to come to an end. It is important to achieve democratic standards. Cyprus and problems with Armenia are also important,” Gül said.

Commenting on the EU not giving Turkey an exact date on its EU membership, President Gül said the matter is about Turkey. “We need to implement EU reforms together with an understanding that transcends political parties,” he added.

During his four-day visit to Kazakhstan, President Gül met with his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, on Sunday in Shymkent. On Monday, he traveled to Turkistan to visit the Hoca Ahmet Yesevi Turkish-Kazakh University. He then came to the capital of Astana to participate in official meetings.

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