Iran Softens Criticism of Turkey as Nuclear Talks Approach
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 damaged.”
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 Iranian missiles.