TEHRAN (Hurriyet)–Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutgolu chided the US and its allies a day after signing an agreement with Iran for a nuclear fuel swap, a diplomatic idea highly regarded months ago when it was first floated but thought to be an impossibility.
Davutoglu criticized the Western powers Tuesday for insisting on sanctions and failing to appreciate both the arduous work that went into the deal Turkey and Brazil signed to swap nuclear fuel with Iran as well as its historic significance.
Western powers largely greeted the deal with skepticism and the United States said it would not halt efforts to implement new sanctions against Iran.
“The discussions on sanctions will spoil the atmosphere and the escalation of statements may provoke the Iranian public,” the Turkish foreign minister told a group of reporters after an official press conference in Istanbul.
“Our mandate was limited to striking a deal on the swap,” Davutoglu said. “If reaching an agreement on the swap was not important, why would we spend so much time and energy on the issue?”
Davutoglu was one of the signatories of Monday’s deal, along with his Brazilian and Iranian counterparts, which commits Iran to shipping much of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for fuel for a nuclear reactor. He said Turkish and Brazilian diplomats would explain the details of the agreement to all relevant parties in the international community.
“With the agreement yesterday, an important psychological threshold has been crossed toward establishing mutual trust,” Davutoglu said. “This is the first indirect deal signed by Iran with the West in 30 years.
Davutoglu said there is no need to doubt the deal, touting the agreement as a basis for overcoming the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program, which the West suspects is a cover for a nuclear-arms drive. The agreement covers the swap of material, not Iran’s enrichment program, the minister said, adding that all countries have the right to enrich uranium and no nation can be denied its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The Turkish foreign minister also objected to criticism over the amount of fuel that will be swapped. Critics of the deal argue that the 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium that Iran agreed to have stored in Turkey was an amount set in October, when the idea of a swap first came about. Since then, they say, Iran has continued to produce more low-enriched uranium.
According to Davutoglu, U.S. President Barack Obama recently sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan regarding the negotiations and the quantity mentioned in this letter was exactly 1,200 kilograms. The foreign minister said all relevant parties were kept informed at all stages of the negotiations with Iran and claimed that the early skeptical reactions stem from the fact that a successful deal was not expected.
“I think there is no problem with the text of the deal. The problem is that they were not expecting that Iran would accept,” he said. “They had a reflex conditioned on the expectation that Iran will always say no. That’s why they were a little bit caught by surprise.”
Davutoglu and his Brazilian counterpart have already written a letter to the members of the U.N. Security Council, as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, explaining the details of the deal. Erdogan is also expected to send a letter back to Obama. Davutoglu, meanwhile, will continue his telephone diplomacy. He was scheduled to talk Tuesday with European Union foreign ministers as well as Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
“There is a political will clearly expressed by Iran, [and] signed by Turkey and Brazil, countries very much respected in the international community; and the whole thing is linked to a calendar,” Davutoglu said. “Now it is time to sit and work to create the conditions for true peace on the basis created [by this deal], not to make speculations or voice suspicions.”
The Turkish foreign minister also said the deal could not have happened had it not been for Obama’s multilateral engagement policies.