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Turkey to be involved in Iran talks if needed

20 January 2011 [13:18] - TODAY.AZ
Turkey recently found itself squeezed between France and Iran while looking for a way to solve the government crisis in Lebanon. It is set to again face a similar challenge in balancing the interests of its Western allies and its Eastern neighbor, as Istanbul is set to host talks on Tehran's nuclear program.

Although Turkey's official role is limited to hosting the talks between the six world powers – the so-called P5+1 (the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and Germany) – and Iran, the possibility of active Turkish involvement in facilitating the talks has not been excluded.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is expected to host a dinner Thursday night prior to the majority of the talks and Turkish involvement in the talks will be limited to strictly hosting the event, EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton said last week when she was in Istanbul in preparation of the talks.

“The Turkish position is clear. Foreign Minister Davutoğlu will host the dinner and then go to his room and wait if there is a need for his intervention. He won't get involved unless he is asked to,” a well-informed diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

However, the likelihood of Davutoğlu’s inaction is very slight. Few expect him to sit and wait in his room, not only because of his eagerness mediate but also because Iran wants greater Turkish involvement.

“We know that Iran wants to get us involved in their favor. But we will not fall into that trap,” said a Turkish official. Davutoğlu, who hopes to make Istanbul a center for mediation, will be faced by the challenge of a fine balancing act.

Turkey, together with Brazil, brokered a nuclear swap deal with Iran last May that was ultimately rejected by the Western powers. Turkey's subsequent vote against sanctions being placed on Iran sanctions at the U.N. fueled speculations about the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government’s drifting away from the West.

Turkey's performance at the Istanbul talks will prove to be a new test case as more and more European states are questioning whether Turkey is an ally or not. As an EU candidate, Turkey needs to align its foreign policy with that of the EU, yet the alignment has been viewed as looser and looser since the AKP’s rise to power.

Yet Turkey's recent assertive foreign policy posture is based on the postulate that it can not remain idle in the face of developments in its region. Turkey is one of the countries that will be most affected by the nuclear standoff between Iran and world powers.

Experts are not hopeful for a breakthrough in Istanbul. “There is no reason to believe there can be a breakthrough. The best result will be for the parties to agree to meet again,” said a French expert.

“There is complete deadlock. Iran has not given any sign that it is ready to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution and the P5 plus 1 have not given any signs that they will back down,” said Bruno Tertrais from the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research. While he said the Tehran nuclear swap deal is technically on the table, he also said the likelihood of reviving the deal was low.

“In any case the deal needs to be updated, as conditions have changed since then. For one thing, Iran has continued to produce enriched uranium.”

/Hurriyet Daily News/

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