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    Cuneyt Ulsever: Turkey's relations with Iran these days, as heard in DC

    Hürriyet Haber
    28.09.2005 - 13:02 | Son Güncelleme:

    Last week while in Washington DC, I attended a conference, a brainstorm if you will, called "Turkey and its Non EU Neighbors." There were all sorts of bureaucrats, academics, analysts, and diplomats there. Today, I would like to pass on part of what I encountered there on the subject of the relation between Iran and Turkey. The following is taken from the personal opinion of an Iranian academic invited to the meeting.

    Some experts stress that this is the first time recently that Turkey has been "without enemies," and that this is due to the success of the AKP Party, and its "multi-faceted" or "strategic depth" foreign policies. On the same line of thought, while Turkey is becoming less and less effective in the Caucasus, it is experiencing warming relations with Russia. It has also entered into a period of close relations with Syria. Iranian participants in the meeting said that, according to them, Turkey was the only "real governmental state" in the Middle East, and that by leaving its old ideological perspectives behind, Iranian powers were trying to reexamine the Iranian-Turkish relation from a point of pragmatism. With approach in hand, a struggle breaking out between Iran and Turkey is almost impossible, said the Iranian experts at the meeting. The Iranian academic also said that, according to him, Turkey was a country still not able to leap the gap in terms of cultural trust, and that there was a large gap also in terms of the elite and the people of the country. The Iranian said that the people of the Turkey still had not been able to digest the idea of Ataturk and his principles.
    Below are the reasons expressed for incompatibility between Iran and Turkey, according to the expert at the DC meeting:
    1) Turkey is, in the end, an ally of the US.
    2) The strategic cooperation between Turkey and Israel which has been in place since 1996 disturbs Iran.
    3) Iran shares Turkey discomfort with the question of Kurdish dominated Iraqi lands, but fears a difference in opinion on the other members of Iraqi society. In short, Iran perceives that Turkey would support the Sunnis in an Iraqi civil war, while Iran would support the Shiites.
    4) Turkey, according to Iran, gives shady support to the independence of Azeri factions in Iran.
    5) Turkey, according to Iran, has a negative perception of Iranian attempts to gain nuclear power, and will join the US and Israel in attempts to block it.
    When Iranian President Ahmedinejad spoke at a UN meeting in September about Iran's efforts at becoming a nuclear power, he was really calling for Turkish support. When Turkey did not respond, this settled a Turkish stance against Iran in the minds of many Iranians once and for all.
    These were the opinions of the Iranian academic at the DC meetings. In all, he was confident that the new pragmatic approach to Turkey on the part of Iran would prevent any serious conflict from developing between the two countries. His only sticking point, his one area of worry, was the question of whether Turkey would give support, covert or otherwise, to pro-independence Azeri factions in the country, a situation which he said could lead to an overt struggle between the countries.
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