As Nuclear Talks Near, Iran Softens Criticism of Turkey (NY) TIMES) By RICK GLADSTONE 04/07/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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Iran’s leaders on Friday backpedaled from their recent criticism of
Turkey, the host of coming talks on the disputed Iranian nuclear
program, in a possible indication of their concern about alienating
the Turks at a time when Iran is facing increased isolation.
Statements from Iranian officials in recent days about moving the
talks to Syria or Iraq because they believed that Turkey had shown
itself not to be a fair or neutral country had angered the Turkish
prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had visited with Iran’s top
leaders last week.
Mr. Erdogan returned home saying he believed that the Iranians were
sincere in not wishing to seek nuclear weapons and in wanting the
talks to succeed. But in blunt remarks on Thursday that apparently
surprised the Iranians, Mr. Erdogan chastised them for proposing
alternate locations that they knew would be unacceptable, with barely
a week before the talks are to begin.
The Turkish leader suggested that such behavior had made the Iranians
appear to be dishonest foot-draggers.
“Because of the lack of honesty, they keep losing credibility in the
world,” Mr. Erdogan said on Thursday at a news conference in Ankara,
the Turkish capital. “This is not the language of diplomacy, but
another language. And that does not suit me.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry offered what appeared to be a veiled apology
for offending Mr. Erdogan, who has emerged as an important bridge
between Iran and the West. In a statement carried Friday by Iran’s
official Islamic Republic News Agency, a Foreign Ministry spokesman,
Ramin Mehmanparast, said, “Tehran-Ankara strategic ties should not be
He described Iran and Turkey as brotherly regional powers and said
they agreed on most issues, an oblique reference to at least two
areas of disagreement: Turkey’s support for the uprising in Syria,
and Turkey’s support for a NATO missile shield designed to thwart
Without specifically referring to Mr. Erdogan or the nuclear talks,
Mr. Mehmanparast said that the “remarks made by different people
should not have any negative effects on bilateral relations.” He
added that Mr. Erdogan’s meeting with Iran’s supreme leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had been “very positive and constructive.”
The substance of Mr. Erdogan’s discussions with Ayatollah Khamenei
have not been disclosed. But Mr. Erdogan visit came just after he met
with President Obama at a summit meeting in South Korea. There has
been speculation since that Mr. Erdogan carried a message from Mr.
Obama to Iran’s leaders on the nuclear issue.
Iran’s insistence on domestic uranium enrichment is the main issue in
the nuclear talks, which were suspended in January 2011. Western
countries suspect that the enrichment is a cover to develop the
capability to make nuclear weapons.
The resumed talks are to be held April 13 and 14 between Iran and the
permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain,
China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.
Neither the Iranians nor the other nations have said that the talks
should be delayed or canceled. But Western diplomats widely view
Iran’s contradictory signals about the location as a sign of either
high-level indecision about a negotiating position, or a deliberate
strategy of delay. Artin Afkhami contributed reporting. (Copyright
2012 The New York Times Company 04/07/12)
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