US, Not Turkey, Has Changed on Iran Nuclear Issue, Says Official

ANKARA (Hürriyet Daily News)–A gradual change in U.S. attitudes on Iran’s nuclear program, rather than a shift in Turkish rhetoric, is the reason for the decreasing level of friction in current Turkish-U.S. ties, according to a government official.

“There hasn’t been any changes in our attitude; it is their attitude that changed,” said the Turkish official, who wished to remain anonymous.

Ankara and Washington experienced turbulence in their relations following a move by Turkey to join Brazil in bypassing the west to broker a deal with Iran over it’s nuclear program. Ankara preferred to stand behind its agreement and voted against the U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran, drawing ire from Washington.

Some analysts observed a change of language in Turkey’s rhetoric in a fashion that has become more compatible with that of the United States over several months and less visibility in its engagement in the nuclear row. They have based their argument on the West’s reluctance to involve Turkey in the latest round of the talks with Iran, which took place in Istanbul last month.

The Turkish official, however, denied the argument and said Turkey was a country that can contribute to the process. “The Tehran Declaration is still on the table,” he said.

The nuclear problems has two aspects; one involves building confidence between Iran and the West that could be accomplished if Tehran opens its program to international inspection and suspends its uranium enrichment, while the other is predicated on the P5+1 group – the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany – permitting Iran the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful and civilian purposes.

The Turkish official said the second aspect also included uranium enrichment.

“The West is not ready to say this out loud, while Iran wants to do so. That’s where the problem stems from,” the official said.

The official, however, drew a thick line on the Turkish position and said Turkey never wanted a nuclear Iran on its doorstep. “We do not want a nuclear Iran even if the world wants one. Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is not in Turkey’s interest.”

Although they appear to be close friends in the region and enjoy flourishing ties as part of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s widely-known “zero problems with neighbors” policy, Turkey and Iran are actually major regional competitors, many analysts have said.

“We do not consider anyone as our rival,” said the Turkish official. “Turkey is a different country, a different model from Iran but which country is successful is quite clear, I think,” he said, implying that Turkey’s democratic system was a role model for the entire region.


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