“What’s important is for the negotiations to start as soon as possible so that the tension may finally be reduced,” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency on Thursday, as he addressed reporters at a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi. “Turkey is ready to extend any help, make any contribution,” he added, noting it was high time for talks to start again and a settlement to be reached to ease tensions between Iran and the West.
Davutoğlu also noted both sides told him of their readiness and eagerness to continue the negotiations, to which Salehi replied that Iran was ready to talk “if the other side will act with sincerity.”
“If there were any excuses on their part, then this would mean they are against and do not endorse negotiations,” Salehi said. Previously, officials from the EU and the US noted no request had arrived from Iran to resume talks, the most recent of which was held in İstanbul last year without yielding impressive results but nevertheless established a connection between the two sides, which previously communicated through letters.
Davutoğlu also confirmed that, having met both sides, all parties were willing to negotiate Iran’s nuclear program once more, and he offered that İstanbul could be the venue again. İstanbul was also the venue of choice voiced by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, and Salehi himself.
On the issue of a NATO early-warning system implemented by Turkey, Salehi repeated that threats stemming from his country against Turkey for its hosting of the radar did not reflect official views and should be dismissed. “Iran has faith in Turkish officials, not in [US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton,” Salehi added, referring to explanations from the US that the radar system is aimed at blocking Iranian missiles against Europe, a claim Turkey says does not reflect the truth since the system has no targets.
Davutoğlu sends determined message to Iraq and Syria
In a clear message to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Davutoğlu said Turkey had no intentions of meddling in the internal affairs of any country, but the country could not remain silent to the negative events happening around it. He suggested Turkey would naturally react to the direction a rift between Sunni and Shiite blocs is heading. Maliki previously lashed out at Turkey, in reaction to Turkey’s warning to decrease tensions in the country, saying the warning constituted a surprise interference in its domestic business.
Davutoğlu also noted Turkey was closely watching developments in Syria and repeated Turkey’s official call on Bashar al-Assad to stop the bloodshed in the country. “We want the attacks against civilians to stop,” Davutoğlu urged Syria, saying Turkey was waiting on a report from the Arab League to decide on the next steps to be taken with regards to the Syrian issue.
Although senior Turkish and Iranian officials seem to agree that relations are not affected by the NATO defense system, the news of rockets wrecking Turkey’s embassy in Baghdad brought on speculation that the attack might have been instigated by Iranian forces to back Iraq’s Shiite prime minister against Turkey. “A rocket attack did happen, but we are still investigating the details of it,” Davutoğlu said on Wednesday, pledging that Turkey would find out whether it was an accident or a planned attack on the embassy, which suffered no casualties in the incident.
Salehi warns regional countries to refrain from close alliance with US
Prior to the press meeting, Salehi spoke to reporters in Turkey, touching on key issues that have fanned fears in Iran’s allies in the region, as well as in Western nations. Salehi said his country never tried to block the Hormuz Strait, but he repeated a warning to US allies in the Middle East that they should not put themselves in a dangerous position, Reuters reported on Thursday.
“We want peace and tranquility in the region, but some of the countries in our region, they want to direct other countries 12,000 miles away from this region. I repeat that Iran has never tried to hinder this important route,” Salehi told the private news channel NTV prior to the press conference with Davutoğlu. “I am calling on all countries in the region, please don’t let yourselves be dragged into a dangerous position,” he noted, issuing an apparent warning to Iran’s Arabic neighbors not to align too closely with the US.
Tehran previously warned that it could close the Hormuz Strait, through which one third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes, if its transport of crude oil is undermined by sanctions imposed on it by Western countries, Reuters reported. Iran was further irritated when Saudi Arabia, also a US ally and great supplier of crude oil, said it could make up for the loss if the West decides to keep up the decision to block Iranian crude on the market.
The Western pressure on Iran stems from the wide conviction that Iran is enriching uranium to make nuclear warheads, a claim Iran denies, saying its use of fissiles is aimed at producing energy. Salehi’s Turkey visit comes amid debates on whether Iran is ready to sit down with an international delegation to discuss its nuclear program, talks which all parties say they would welcome. Salehi announced from Turkey on Wednesday that Iran is ready to resume nuclear talks with the P5+1, a delegation consisting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, preferably in İstanbul, but no date has yet been set.
“[US President Barack] Obama sent a letter to Iranian officials, but America has to make clear that it has good intentions and should express that it’s ready for talks without conditions,” he was quoted as saying. “Out in the open, they show their muscle, but behind the curtains, they plead with us to sit down and talk. America has to pursue a safe and honest strategy so we can be sure that America this time is serious and ready.”