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Erdogan Visit To Tehran Decisive In Shaping Future Turkish Ties – OpEd

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By Arash Zahedi

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in the Iranian capital of Tehran for an official two day visit to hold talks with senior Iranian officials.

But his Tehran visit is only one leg of his international trip since he has arrived there not from Ankara or Istanbul but from Seoul in South Korea where a nuclear security summit was underway. US President Barack Obama was there at the summit too and held Talks with the Turkish Premier especially regarding Iran and this, however downplayed by members of the Turkish delegation accompanying Erdogan, together with regional developments has made this trip all the more important.

A look at the ongoing events in the Middle East especially the ones in Syria as well as those connected with the Iranian nuclear energy issue bring to mind that Erdogan’s visit, taking into consideration the timing of his Tehran trip, will mean more than simply boosting the two mighty neighbors’ ties. Ties which have, as some view them these days, been affected to some degree, to say the least, over how Ankara and Tehran perceive the more than a year long Syrian crisis.

Regardless of what might be on the agenda of talks Erdogan will hold with the Iranian officials as far as the nuclear energy work of the Islamic Republic is concerned, one thing is for certain: The Iranian nuclear rights are ‘non-negotiable’. This has been the case from the onset and if one is to assume that Erdogan might have a message that does not respect this, then a sure outcome of this phase of the talks is failure for the Turkish delegation.

However, Turkey’s efforts in acting as a mediator between Iran and the West over Tehran’s atomic energy case have been clear, acknowledged and respected. There has been mutual trust so far on the issue and Iran has already held one round of talks over its nuclear energy work with the P5+1 group of countries comprising Russia, China, Britain, France and the US, plus Germany in Istanbul last year and there are speculations that the next round of these talks that Tehran has announced for April 13 will also be held in Turkey. Ankara officials have, in a number of occasions, announced their readiness to host the event.

But, perhaps it is when there is talk of Syria that the Ankara-Tehran standings can and should be cautiously observed.

Turkey has been of the view that Syrian President Bashar Assad should step down and relinquish power to end the deadly violence between Syria’s security forces and the opponents to his rule. It has also held and will hold meetings for the Syrian government opposition groups on its soil. On the other hand, Iran says it will do what it can to support the Assad government in the face of the ongoing Syrian crisis, however advising Damascus to implement the needed reforms. Such view is shared by Iraq, China and Russia as well.

The fact of the matter is that the recent turns of events have not been in favor of the view Turkey upholds regarding Syria as international bids are moving in a direction which seem to mean that Assad will not need to step down. Damascus has accepted UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s 6 point plan to end the crisis in Syria. Such development was not what Turkey, the Arab League and the West had initially predicted for Syria.

If Assad remains in power, Turkey has done more than enough to guarantee a regional adversary against whom it does not have the support of two of its neighbors Iran and Iraq, not to mention a powerhouse such as Russia. Another possible outcome of the current conditions might spell for Ankara the re-defining of ties with Baghdad, Moscow and Tehran should it intend to proceed on the same path if it leads to Assad’s collapse.

Something of paramount significance for Turkey recently has been a waiver from the US sanctions on Iran. The US state department has exempted 11 nations from these sanctions, saying they have reduced their oil purchases from Iran. Turkey was not one of them however seriously it tries to be. The country’s energy minister says unless Ankara finds other sources, not buying Iranian oil is not a Turkish option.

The answer to whether Turkey will make it to the list of the US-bans-exempted countries might also be sought in the Tehran talks.

Something that can be potentially intriguing for Ankara leaders in the weeks, if not days, to come is how to change gear (if not putting it on idle altogether) to deal with the upcoming events which have once proved not to have turned in Turkey’s favor.

Failing in the multi layered regional, political task Ankara has chosen to embark on will put its leadership abilities under serious question.

Hopes are that Erdogan and his team will use their utmost diplomacy in dealing with these issues.

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Press TV

Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran. Press TV carries news analysis, documentary talk shows and sports news worldwide with special focus on West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

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