Monday 18 August 2008

Iranian President Ahmadinejad meets Turkey's Gul, no energy deal

Hürriyet - Turkey

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Thursday to discuss bilateral ties, including the enhancement of an energy partnership, and Tehran's nuclear program. Turkey and Iran failed to reach consensus on an energy deal, but signed other cooperation deals. (UPDATED)

Ahmadinejad met with his Turkish counterpart Gul at the Ciragan Palace in Istanbul. Turkey and Iran will continue to discuss further cooperation in the energy sector, a joint statement from the two leaders said on Thursday, after the two countries failed to sign an energy deal on a gas pipeline.

The officials from both sides signed agreements on some other issues, such as transportation, tourism and environment, as well as the fight against drug trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism.

Turkey and Iran agreed in May to build a new gas pipeline to ensure a reliable supply to Turkey. Ahmad Noorani, an official at the Iranian Embassy in Ankara, said last week the deal could be signed during the visit.

Energy agreements were expected to be a key element of Ahmadinejad's talks with Turkish leaders during his visit

Iranian president would meet Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Friday in Istanbul. Ahmadinejad's visit came shortly after Western countries decided to implement more sanctions on Iran over its nuclear works. The U.S. accuses Iran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons; however, Tehran denies such claims saying its nuclear works are solely for peaceful means.

Ankara has earlier said it would help to resolve the row over Iran's nuclear work but stayed short of labeling its efforts as "mediating". Turkey says it would not favor any country in the region to develop nuclear weapons.

Turkey, a NATO member and a candidate for EU membership, is seeking to act as a go-between in the dispute between Iran and the United Nations over Iran's uranium enrichment.

Six world powers had proposed Iran a package of new incentives to stop uranium enrichment works. Iran's response to the package was called unacceptable by the United States, and the group agreed to pursue another round of sanctions against Iran.

Although Israel expressed its disappointment over the visit, the U.S. wants Turkey to persuade Iran to accept the incentive packages as officials say they hope Ankara sends the correct message to the visiting president.

Turkey has intensified its mediating efforts in the region. As with the indirect talks to resolve the Syria-Israel conflict, Turkey had been holding talks with Iran and Western countries over the nuclear row.

Recently Erdogan visited Moscow and Tbilisi in an effort to ease the tension in the Caucasus.

WORKING VISIT

Ahmadinejad's planned visit drew severe criticism in Turkey because of his refusal to visit the mausoleum of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Protocol requires foreign leaders to visit the mausoleum and Turkish media said Gul had subsequently moved the trip to Istanbul to avoid a potential embarrassing moment.

As a way of containing the furor, Ankara downgraded the visit from "official state visit" to "working visit".

ENERGY PARTNERSHIP

Last July, Turkey and Iran signed a preliminary agreement to export Iranian gas to Europe through Turkey, including a provision for Turkey to produce 20.4 billion cubic meters of natural gas in Iran's huge South Pars gas field.

The investment for Turkey's gas production in Iran is seen at approximately $3.5 billion.

The United States has voiced its opposition to the deal amid a standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear enrichment program.

Turkey, which is a net importer of gas and oil, has been trying to find a way to use its geographical position between Europe and the energy-rich Caspian to import gas and sell it on to Europe.

During the recent clashes in the Caucasus Turkey had increased its natural gas exports from Iran after Georgia closed the pipeline that carries gas from Azerbaijani Shah Deniz fields.

COOPERATION AGAINST SEPARATISTS

Turkey has stepped up cooperation with Iran against the outlawed PKK and its breakaway faction PEJAK, still active in both countries and in 2001 began buying Iranian gas via a pipeline between the two countries, overriding U.S. discontent.

Turkey’s interest in Georgia is heightened by another pipeline that carries crude oil from the Caspian Sea from Azerbaijan’s capital Baku via Tbilisi to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

The PKK is considered as a terrorist organization by majority of the international community including the U.S. and the European Union, and are responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people over the past three decades.

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