ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkey’s “no” vote on new sanctions against Iran has disappointed Washington and threatened to create a sea change in future relationship between the two NATO allies.
“I won’t conceal the fact that we’re disappointed with the vote that took place today,” Undersecretary of Political Affairs Bill Burns said at a press briefing Wednesday, referring to the United Nations Security Council’s passing of a fresh sanctions resolution despite “no” votes from Turkey and Brazil and abstention from Lebanon.
The vote by Turkey, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, could cause the “model partnership” previously articulated by the Obama administration to be shelved, said Mehmet Yegin of the Turkish think tank USAK. He said Washington could decide as a result to step up its critical rhetoric against Turkey or revive resolutions to recognize Armenian genocide claims.
“Turkey’s ‘no’ vote does not target the United States. Turkey had to stand behind the deal it brokered as a requirement of pursuing a consistent policy,” Yegin said. “But that certainly will have a price.”
Last month, Turkey and Brazil brokered a deal with Iran to swap low-enriched uranium for more highly enriched nuclear material in an attempt to ease the international standoff. In initial reactions, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she appreciated the two nations’ efforts and said Turkey and Brazil would both continue to play an important role in ongoing diplomatic outreach to Iran.
“Turkey made a sovereign choice in deciding how to vote today,” Undersecretary Burns said in his statement after the Security Council vote. “But we believe that Turkey shares – and the Turkish representative in New York made clear that Turkey shares – international concerns that Iran has not lived up to its obligations.”
Despite its opposition to the new resolution, Turkey has said it will abide by the sanctions against Iran since U.N. resolutions are binding for all members. It will monitor other leading international powers’ moves in implementing sanctions and take them as a precedent, Turkish diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
“Work on how sanctions would hit Turkey’s interests was already completed at the Foreign Ministry long before the vote took place. But instead of talking about them now, we think we should focus on diplomatic efforts,” ministry spokesman Burak Özügergin told the private channel NTV on Thursday.
Diplomatic sources said the Turkey-Brazil-Iran agreement is “still on the table” and that Ankara will work to try and implement it. “We will also try to persuade Iran to be calm,” a source said. Turkey will also reply to letters sent by Russia, France and the United States – collectively known as the Vienna Group – explaining why the swap deal did not satisfy their concerns.
In an address in New York, Turkey’s permanent representative to the U.N., Ertuğrul Apakan, called on Iranian authorities to dispel the international community’s concerns over the peaceful nature of their nuclear problem and repeated that the dispute should be resolved through peaceful means and negotiations. Western sources told the Daily News that Turkey’s statement was “balanced” as it included a strong message to Iran.
Still, the atmosphere in Washington remains one of uneasiness over future relations with Turkey.
“I am sure the situation in Washington goes beyond disappointment,” Sabri Sayarı, a professor at Sabancı University in Istanbul, told the Daily News on Thursday. “The approach toward Turkey has dramatically changed over recent years due to a number of reasons, including Ankara’s rejection of the troop deployment motion before the Iraq war, problems with Israel and the Iran policy.”
Turkey and the U.S. cooperate on a wide range of issues, from Afghanistan to Iraq, and including the fight against terrorism. But relations incurred a severe blow when the Turkish Parliament rejected a motion to let U.S. troops open a front from the Turkish territory against Iraq in the 2003 war. Turkey’s escalating rhetoric against Israel, coupled with the recent tension in bilateral ties caused by the Israeli raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, is also a source of concern in Washington.
In a keynote statement this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Turkey’s turn toward the East but blamed the European Union for the country’s recent moves away from the West.
“We know that Turkey shares our objective of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, even if we differ in our respective approaches. But we strongly reject the idea that Turkey has a ‘choice’ to make between the East and West,” a Western diplomat told the Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Whatever happens, the diplomat said, Turkey is and will remain an important strategic partner for countries in the West. “The relationship will survive recent events,” he said. “It would be irresponsible for opponents of Turkey’s EU accession to take advantage of an already difficult situation.”