As international concern grows over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, President Obama will on Monday seek to engage Turkey – a rising power in Mideast diplomacy and member of the United Nations Security Council – in the West’s effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.
Mr. Obama’s meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the White House on Monday comes amid concerns that increased economic ties between Ankara and Tehran could undermine efforts to punish the Islamic regime should it ignore Obama’s year-end deadline for reaching a negotiated solution to its disputed nuclear program.
Turkey has expanded trade with Iran, and now gets 20 percent of its natural gas from its neighbor. Erdogan also visited the Iranian capital in October, and defended the country’s program as indeed “peaceful,” reports Bloomberg.
More broadly, Turkey has shifted its foreign policy stance to focus on regional ties, at least partially because its bid to join the European Union has been frustrated, reports the Telegraph. That could have a cooling effect on its relations with traditional Western powers.
In particular [Turkey] has allowed key members of the Islamic regime to move large sums of money – up to $10 million per day – into the global financial system.
Turkey has become a prized outlet for Iranian transactions since a tight regime of sanctions cut off Iranian banks from international finance.
Turkey was one of a handful of countries that refused to support a reprimand imposed on Iran over its failure to declare a secret nuclear facility last month.
KürÅŸat Tüzmen, a Turkish political leader and former foreign trade minister, claimed that the new regional orientation would actually benefit the United States, according to Today’s Zaman in Istanbul.
Tüzmen underlined that each relationship with neighboring countries is important in different ways and said it was very likely these relations would be discussed during ErdoÄŸan’s visit to the US. Turkey has made clear that it does not want a nuclear threat in the region and is pursuing a balanced policy over the issue. Trade with Iran has increased tenfold in the last seven years, reaching $10 billion …
“We made clear that we could use the common links with neglected neighboring and regional countries for the development of Turkey and the region … This offers important advantages not only for Turkey and the region but for world peace.”
Another way in which Obama is likely to seek Turkey’s help in the region is by asking the country to commit troops to Afghanistan. Erdogan’s remarks that his country has done all it can militarily in Afghanistan may come as a disappointment to the US president after he committed another 30,000 troops to the effort – and serve as another thorn in their relations.