Salehi comforts Ankara over NATO shield threats

 
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi during a press conference in Ankara. (Photo: AA)
TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA
Following Ankara’s demand from Tehran for an explanation over threatening remarks by Iranian officials on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has reaffirmed deep ties of friendship and fraternity between countries, adding Iran has already warned those responsible for feckless remarks against Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu asked for an explanation from his Iranian counterpart on a recent threat voiced by an Iranian lawmaker, state-run Anatolia news agency reported on Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources. Foreign ministry officials contacted by Today’s Zaman further explained that Davuto?lu discussed the issue with Salehi twice before, and was personally assured by the Iranian minister that the views were personal and did not reflect Iranian policy toward Turkey.
“Our relations with Turkey are currently at their best on a political and economic level, as well as the relations between our people,” Salehi said in an interview with the Anatolia on Wednesday, as he assured that, despite differences in views, he was in constant contact with Davuto?lu on bilateral and regional issues. “Some people, knowingly or not, express views without much knowledge and by stepping beyond their responsibilities, and it causes misunderstandings. We reject those views entirely,” Salehi further said to explain that the words of a number of Iranian politicians, who vehemently expressed their disapproval over a NATO early-warning system, did not match the official perspective in his country.

The words that triggered Tuesday’s phone call between Salehi and Davuto?lu came from Hussein Ibrahim, the vice president of the Iranian parliamentary national security and foreign policy panel, who suggested that “It is Iran’s natural right to target the missile defense shield system in Turkey in case of an attack, and we will definitely resort to that,” in an interview with the Iranian daily Shargh on Sunday. The defense missile shield system mentioned by Ibrahim as a cause of war between Iran and Turkey is a US design planned to be installed in a number of NATO member countries as a means of an early-warning defense system against ballistic missiles coming from outside of Europe, such as Iran.

Ibrahim’s words came in repetition of other Iranian officials who expressed similar comments before him, which hinted Ankara that the annoyance with the new NATO project is widespread among Iranian politicians, but Iranian foreign ministry refrains from backing the threats. Shortly before Ibrahim, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace division, explicitly uttered a threat that the NATO radar system, which is planned to be installed in eastern Malatya province, would be “the first target” to be taken down should Iran ever be attacked, and the country would on to next targets only after then.

Salihi, on the other hand, made it clear that the official position of Iran on international and foreign policy issues come strictly from Iran’s religious leader, the president and the foreign minister, and the views of the rest do not have credibility for the administration. “We have made the necessary warning to those who made feckless and insensible remarks,” Salihi told the Anatolia.”It should be known that the official Iranian approach toward Turkey is based on the deeply-rooted fraternity and friendship.” Salehi also called on both countries not to give credit to “common enemies who might be looking for excuses” to deteriorate relations between countries.

Meanwhile, on the same Tuesday, Ali-Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told a news conference that Turkey’s model of “secular Islam” was a version of western liberal democracy and unacceptable for countries that is going through what he called “Islamic awakening,” Financial Times reported. Previously, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an drew vehement criticism from non-secular countries of the region, including Iran, when he spoke to the Egyptian public in September and called for a secular government, which would treat people of all faiths equally. Accusing Turkey of complying with Western demands and following Western traditions, Iran suspects that the NATO warning system is a plan devised to protect and defend Israel in case the country goes to war with Iran, souring the tone of the initial reaction from Iran and triggering many from Iran to promise vengeance against Turkey for taking part in the project.

Despite the visible controversy between Iran and Turkey, Ankara keeps in close contact with Tehran, with which it conducts frequent visits and phone calls, specifically on issues the two countries extend cooperation to each other or suffer from mutual risks. Ankara tolerates Iranian criticism as unofficial comments, and makes it known that it would only hold top Iranian administrators in office as addressee, as suggested by Iran’s Salehi himself.

Iran and Turkey share intelligence to cooperate against terrorist activity along their borders, since the Turkish military has for decades been combating the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while Iran has been engaged in a battle against the PKK’s offshoot organization, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK). Both organizations seek autonomy inside the borders of Iran and Turkey, and with the US troops pulling out of Iraq soon, the need for Turkish-Iranian cooperation might increase dramatically.

Turkey also refrained from acting on a UN watchdog report that indicated Iran might be working on developing nuclear warheads, a claim popular in the West although Iran denies the claims vehemently, saying the country is only pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Despite several issues of controversy between Iran and Turkey, including unrest in the countries involved in the Arab Spring, leaders from both countries frequently express faith in the good will of the other.

Last year, Turkey helped broker a nuclear swap deal with Brazil to help Iran dodge a UN Security Council attempt for sanctions, on the condition that the country hands over its enriched uranium, but the deal was not finalized. Aware of Turkey’s interest in nuclear energy, an Iranian adviser to the supreme leader suggested last month that Iran could help build a nuclear facility for Turkey, an unofficial proposal the Turkish energy minister turned down through media outlets.


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