Venue change talks likely to lead to further strain between Iran-Turkey

Venue change talks likely to lead to further strain between Iran-Turkey

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of Iran’s parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, spoke at a press conference in Cairo last summer. (Photo: EPA)

April 05, 2012, Thursday/ 18:29:00/ GÖZDE NUR DONAT

Talks of a last-minute venue change for Iranian nuclear talks among official Iranian circles prove Iran’s growing distance from Turkey due to Turkey’s political stance on many issues, including Syria, and that the two will not be able to reconcile their differences, causing relations to be further strained, political observers have said.

“Iran is not willing to concede its foreign policy preferences. Regarding the political situation in Syria and Iraq, Iran and Turkey are in irreconcilable positions,” Associate Professor Atilla Sandıklı, head of the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BİLGESAM) research center, told Today’s Zaman on Thursday.

Sandıklı stated that the latest diplomatic talks between Iran and Turkey were not very successful in leading to an agreement between Turkey and Iran regarding the Syrian crisis. He claimed that Iran’s shift in opinion regarding holding the talks in İstanbul just a week before the talks should be understood as a reaction to Turkey on those matters.

Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi has repeatedly claimed in recent months that Turkey is the right place to host the talks.

Iranian parliamentary Chairman Ali Larijani called the İstanbul gathering of the Friends of Syria a “conference to bribe Israel” and said that nations in the region describing Syria as a dictatorship are no better themselves, the Iranian Farsi news agency reported on Tuesday.

Until this week, the international community expected nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany -- to be held in İstanbul.

However, on Wednesday, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Akbar Salehi stated that his country would propose alternate venues for the talks, such as Iraq or China, although he claimed Turkey remained an acceptable location for the talks.

Meanwhile, lower level Iranian officials have continued to speak out against Turkey hosting the next talks on Iran’s nuclear program. On Thursday, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of an influential foreign policy committee of the Iranian parliament, said the country does not want Turkey to host talks.

The scheduled date for the nuclear talks is April 13.

“The reason Iran has suggested Iraq or China, which support Iran, as host countries is because it would like to push its weight around and defend its position in a stronger way vis-à-vis the West,” maintained Sandıklı.

Meanwhile, Turkish officials have played down the venue for the talks, saying in remarks on Wednesday that what should be at center stage are the content and results of nuclear talks. Turkish officials have declined to comment on what reasons Iran has offered for suggesting alternate sites just a week before the talks.

“If there is a will to reach an agreement [on nuclear talks], the place where the discussions to be held are just of symbolic importance,” said Faik Bulut, writer and Middle East researcher, claiming that Iran is far from having such willingness as it continues to drag its feet in reaching a compromise over its nuclear program.

US State Minister Hillary Rodham Clinton has put it bluntly last week that the window for diplomacy is closing for Iranian nuclear disputes.

“The time for diplomacy is not infinite and all options remain on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Clinton indicated from Saudi Arabia capital of Riyadh on Saturday.

“The sooner that we begin talks, the better it will be,” Clinton also added.

However, Harun Öztürkler, Middle East expert from the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), has assessed that “Iran is trying to stall the talks from beginning,” claiming that process of deciding for a venue would delay the talks further.

He claimed that the country has sought alleviating international pressure on itself by assenting to discuss its long disputed nuclear program but its real aim is to buy more time to continue its nuclear program, aiming eventually to acquire nuclear bombs.

Öztürkler, on the other hand, asserted that there is not much time left for a potential US intervention on Iran, unless a miracle happens and the country abandons its nuclear plans, opening its nuclear program to international supervision.

“If Iran would not compromise, a US intervention on the country is inevitable,” he claimed. The West and others fear Iran could use its ability to make nuclear fuel to eventually develop atomic weapons. Iran says it only seeks reactors for energy and medical research.

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