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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

BREAKING NEWS FROM ISRAEL:

Turkey relaxing stance on Israeli compensation for Gaza flotilla victims?

Deal would mean upgrading of diplomatic relations, exchange of ambassadors, and end to claims against Israeli military officers and soldiers.

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December 6, 2013 – The Nikkei Asian Review

Iran gets an early Christmas gift: Turkey.

YUZO WAKI, Nikkei columnist

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (left) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif meet Nov. 27 in Tehran. © AP

 

TOKYO — Old rivals Turkey and Iran are drawing closer together as Ankara tries to regain lost influence in the Middle East.

Oil supplies have also waned in Turkey as the Syrian conflict has dragged on. Instability in Egypt, which saw Islamist President Mohamed Morsi deposed July 3, added to Turkey’s problems.

 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Tehran Nov. 27 after an interim agreement on Iranian nuclear development was signed Nov. 24 in Geneva by Iran, the U.S. and other world powers. “Now is the time for cooperation,” Davutoglu said. “The dialogue between two regional powers such as Turkey and Iran, who share an historic relationship, will not only enable our region to gain stability, but also prevent the negative effects of conflicts.”

     Davutoglu and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels to reach a ceasefire before an international peace conference convenes late January in Geneva.

And now for something completely different

Teaming up with Assad’s ally Iran is an about-face for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He had called on Assad to step down and has supported the Syrian opposition. The shift has been in the works for a while. Zarif on Nov. 1 met Erdogan, and the two said they were ready to cooperate to bring peace to Syria.

Erdogan still believes that Assad should resign. But there is little possibility of change to the current Syria situation. The U.S. government of President Barack Obama gave up the idea of attacking Syrian government forces because of their use of chemical weapons. A diplomatic solution to the conflict is now being sought.

Syrian opposition forces have been influenced by al-Qaida, a terrorist organization. They are together trying to establish a “mini-Islamic state” in the region that straddles the Iraq and Syria borders.

Suppressing extremists and maintaining a Syrian national framework is a common strategic interest for the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

Turkey has strengthened its political presence in the Middle East since the start of the “Arab Spring.” A series of unexpected events, however, such as the summer ouster of Morsi, have conspired against Ankara. Turkey risks becoming a loser in Middle Eastern diplomacy.

No problem

Another factor behind Turkey’s shift in its foreign policy is a domestic movement pushing for a return to “zero-problem diplomacy,” under which conflicts with neighboring countries are minimized. The policy was previously advocated by Erdogan, who since 2011 has tried to take a more active role in the domestic affairs of neighboring countries.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is Sunni. When events take on a more sectarian tone — as they did with the Syrian conflict — Turkey’s relations with the Shiite-led Iranian and Iraqi governments have soured.

Davutoglu visited a Shiite sanctuary and met with Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, when he went to Iraq. Turkey is also seeking to cooperate more with the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq and mend ties with the government in Baghdad. Relations with Iraq have soured since Turkey supported Sunni forces in in the country.

For Turkey, which relies on imports for energy, cooperation with neighboring oil producers such as Iran and Iraq is crucial. The country also welcomes international moves to ease sanctions on major trading partner Iran. The U.S. and Europe had imposed harsh sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear development program.

“Even if it were not possible to match the previous levels of (crude oil) imports (from Iran),” said Taner Yildiz, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. “I believe our purchases could go up to 130,000 to 140,000 barrels per day” from the current 105,000, he added.
The Turkish government also said that the Nov. 24 international agreement enabled banks to resume remittance and settlement with Iranian financial institutions.

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