Iran nuclear talks to resume in Turkey, Davutoğlu says
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) speaks to media at a news conference with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, in Tehran on Jan. 5, 2012. (Photo: AA)
Iran and major international powers have reached an agreement to resume talks on the Islamic republic's nuclear program in Turkey, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.
Davutoğlu said he had talks with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, about his recent visit to Tehran and that he now expects the talks with Tehran to resume as soon as possible.
“Both parties agreed in principle to hold talks in Turkey, and I hope negotiations will begin as soon as possible,” the foreign minister was quoted as saying in an interview with the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei), published on Sunday.
Davutoğlu's remarks came after he visited Tehran last week, where he said he delivered a Western offer to Iranian authorities to resume negotiations on the country's nuclear program, a year after the talks were stalled. Speaking following the talks with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, on Thursday, Davutoğlu said Salehi had “responded in kind” to the Western offer that he brought and that he was hoping the talks could soon be revived.
For his part, Salehi said Iran was also ready to return to talks with major world powers -- the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) -- at a time and place agreed by both sides.
He also said Ashton, who heads the P5+1 delegation, had suggested to Turkey that it host the talks and that Ankara had agreed. “Personally, I think that Turkey is the best place for the talks to take place,” Salehi said.
The latest series of remarks came as new sanctions from the United States and the European Union added pressure on the Iranian economy. Salehi insisted on Thursday that Iran would survive the latest sanctions, which could cut any bank around the world off from the US financial system if it also does business with Iran and will also stop the EU buying Iranian crude.
Davutoğlu reiterated in the interview that the US and European sanctions were not binding on Turkey and that Turkey should be exempted from the new sanctions. In remarks to Reuters last week, a Turkish official said Turkey is evaluating whether to seek a waiver from the United States to exempt Turkish oil importer Tüpraş from new US sanctions on institutions that deal with Iran's central bank.
İstanbul was the venue of the last talks that ended in stalemate, since when Iran has come under much tougher sanctions from the West, which accuses it of seeking nuclear weapons capability. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and that it has a sovereign right to atomic technology.
Davutoğlu also touched on developments in Syria and negotiations between Turkey and Japan on construction of a nuclear power plant in Turkey.
On Syria, Davutoğlu said Turkey could seek a UN condemnation of Syria if security risks stemming from the inflow of refugee increases.
Nuclear cooperation with Japan
The foreign minister also said Turkey and Japan could sign an extensive preliminary agreement on nuclear cooperation, covering a wide array of areas ranging from medicine to agriculture in the spring.
Davutoğlu also said Turkey was interested in maintaining cooperation with Japan in the planned construction of a nuclear power plant. Turkey and Japan were in negotiations over Turkey's nuclear plans, but the talks were interrupted after a quake-triggered tsunami that crippled a main Japanese nuclear facility. Davutoğlu said Turkey had trusted in Japan's “technology and reliability.”