ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkey and the United States are divided on how to respond to Iran’s nuclear program, with Ankara in favor of giving diplomacy a chance and Washington pushing for tougher sanctions.
The divergence was clear when a key U.S. official expressed Washington’s serious concerns over the “provocative path Iran is moving on toward nuclear capability to pursue nuclear weapons technology.”
“I’ve been in Vienna since Aug. 26, but it feels as if I have been there a lifetime because in the period from the end of August until now there has been a tremendous and really alarming kind of evaluation in Iran’s nuclear activity,” Glyn Davies, U.S. permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told a roundtable meeting at the Turkish think tank USAK on Monday.
His remarks came after talks with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials and they demonstrated that Washington is pushing for tougher sanctions after Iran’s failure to respond to the IAEA proposal.
“We have a two-track policy: engagement and pressure. We are now looking very seriously at the pressure track,” said Davies.
Turkey, on the other hand, is pressing for diplomacy to find a way out of the current deadlock between Iran and world powers. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is in close contact with Iranian, U.S. and Western officials, repeatedly says the ground for diplomacy is wide enough to proceed.
“We appreciate very much the openness, the transparency in the relationship between the United States and Turkey,” said the U.S. official, expressing his content with the Turkish officials sharing with Washington in real-time their impressions and activities for a peaceful solution to the nuclear row.
“But that doesn’t change for us … a very stark interpretation we have of the direction in which Tehran is moving and the provocative nature of the decisions they have made,” he added.
Turkey, a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, abstained during the November 2009 vote of a resolution passed by the IAEA censuring Tehran over its controversial nuclear program and demanding that it stop uranium enrichment. Twenty-five countries voted in favor of the resolution spearheaded by the U.S., while three countries – Venezuela, Malaysia and Cuba—voted against it.
The U.S. representative’s visit led to the speculation that his presence was aimed at a U.S. move to secure a “yes” vote from Turkey, as the U.S. is readying to bring another resolution to the U.N. Security Council’s agenda next month.
“I wasn’t here to provide tactical advice for Turkey … My visit was planned a long time ago. I am not here to provide policy prescriptions to Turkey. I think my job is to really describe from our perspective how we see things evolving in Vienna, in the IAEA,” said Davies.
“I am here to help fill in some of the blanks in terms of American thinking so that officials will understand how we saw the talks last autumn and how we have viewed the progression as Iran has continued to backslide off the original agreement we reached in Vienna,” he added.
Diplomatic observers say it is a weak possibility that Turkish efforts will bear fruit.
“What will Turkey, a member of the council, do? Will it remain abstained, or back the resolution?” asked Sami Kohen in his column published in daily Milliyet on Tuesday. “Ankara’s stance will reveal its foreign policy preferences and priorities.”
The U.S. official declined to comment on what a “yes” or “abstain” vote from Turkey would mean for the United States but noted the policy line in Ankara was quite similar to the one in November.
“A diplomatic solution to the [nuclear problem]. I am convinced Turkey is sincerely pursuing this. Your officials were transparent in explaining what was said in Tehran to your foreign minister … I am not going to criticize Turkish optimism. That’s not my role,” he said.
Davutoglu held detailed talks with senior Iranian officials over the nuclear dispute last week.