Ankara's second guest was war-torn Iraq's Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, who recently reportedly said that Turkey had the right to take part in efforts to find solutions to the problems of the Middle East, including Iraq, while also describing Turkey as one of the most powerful countries in the region. "Turkey's views and contributions are important for us, and we would like to further develop our economic and political ties with the country," he was quoted as saying late last month.
Iraq's Shiite vice president was scheduled to have talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan late on Tuesday afternoon. The invitation extended to Mahdi by the Erdoðan government is widely interpreted as a move by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to clearly show the Iraqi administration that Ankara wants to keep its contacts with all sectarian segments of the neighboring country.
The absence of a scheduled meeting between Mahdi and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has been interpreted as an extension of Sezer's reactionary attitude towards the Iraqi leadership of ethnic Kurdish President Jalal Talabani. Although Sezer will not meet with Mahdi, he is expected to meet today with Mottaki in Istanbul. Ruling out the existence of a reactionary attitude due to the absence of a Sezer-Mahdi meeting, officials said Mahdi's program didn't allow him to travel to Istanbul, where the president is nowadays, and thus the meeting couldn't be arranged.
Nonetheless, Mahdi is expected to have a meeting today with Gül when the latter will reiterate the Turkish non-sectarian stance towards political groups in Iraq. Following his participation in the Iran-Turkey Joint Economic Commission, Mottaki was scheduled to discuss political issues during his separate talks with Erdoðan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül later in the day. Mottaki's visit came ahead of the expiry this week of the latest UN Security Council deadline for Iran to halt sensitive uranium enrichment work as well as a UN watchdog report Friday on its compliance with this demand.
The UN Security Council agreed in December to impose sanctions targeting people and programs linked to Iran's nuclear program, which the United States, the European Union and others fear is being used to make weapons. Under the Dec. 23 decision, Iran was given two months to return to negotiations.
During talks with Mottaki, Turkish officials were to once more urge Tehran to heed international demands in order to create a peaceful resolution for the nuclear stand-off possible, diplomatic sources told Today's Zaman, while noting that timing of Mottaki's visit on the eve of the expiry of the UN deadline was just a coincidence.
Meanwhile, on the same day, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the deadline, saying it would not halt the sensitive nuclear activity as a precondition to talks. "We are in favor of dialogue. But in order for us to talk they are imposing a condition that would deprive us of our right," Ahmadinejad said in a public rally in Rasht, the capital of the northern Gilan province.
Regional platform for Middle East peace
In addition to the nuclear dispute, Turkey is also trying to ensure Iranian participation in a regional initiative led by Pakistan for discussion of Middle Eastern problems.
Turkey, which lent support to an earlier proposal by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to form a group of Muslim countries that will work toward peace in the Middle East, wants Iran not to be excluded from this initiative, which has already come to be described as "a Sunni block."
Ankara wants to ensure the participation of all regional countries that could make a contribution to peace efforts when a meeting convenes in Pakistan on Feb. 25 in order to increase chances of success of the initiative, observers say.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül is expected to travel this weekend to Islamabad, where foreign ministers from seven Muslim nations will discuss how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bring peace to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Turkey, a mainly Muslim but secular non-Arab nation, has close ties with both the Jewish state and the Palestinians and has often offered to help efforts to bring the two sides closer.
Gül paid a hastily arranged visit to Saudi Arabia over the weekend to discuss the Middle East. Gül's talks in Saudi Arabia, where feuding Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah struck a deal earlier this month to form a national unity government after talks hosted by King Abdullah, also follows a visit to Ankara last week by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Prime Minister Erdoðan is also due to visit Saudi Arabia on Feb. 23-25 for an economic meeting and will also have talks with the Saudi king on the situation in the Middle East.
In recent weeks, Musharraf visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and Iran to seek common ground for his initiative. The meeting in Islamabad on Sunday is likely to lay the groundwork for a summit of Muslim leaders at an unspecified date in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Today's ZamanGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16