Irritation has been building between traditionally friendly Turkey and Iran, surrounding Iran’s proposal to hold nuclear talks with the 5+1 group next week in Damascus or Baghdad instead of Istanbul.
The talks are to bring together six world powers and Iran to discuss its disputed nuclear programme.
Turkey has mediated in this but relations have suffered because Ankara has been increasingly critical of Syria – an ally of Iran.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday: “The Damascus or Baghdad offer is a waste of time, because Iran knows the others won’t come. They’ll say ‘We proposed Damascus or Baghdad.’ But we have to be honest. The Iranians are continually losing their international prestige because of the lack of honesty. This is not the language of diplomacy.”
Istanbul was the venue in January 2011. The 5+1 group is the US, Russia, China, France, the UK and Germany. But that meeting was fruitless. Since then, Ankara-Tehran ties have also weakened because Turkey accepted a NATO-led early warning defence system on its soil. Plus, Ankara backs international sanctions against buying Iranian oil.
It also irritated Tehran that Istanbul hosted the Friends of Syria conference last week, where more than 70 countries called for regime change in Damascus.
The Turks’ participation in the oil import sanctions means they are paying higher prices, after reducing their imports from Iran. The European Union will impose a full embargo on Iranian oil imports from July 1 as part of the international standoff over Tehran’s nuclear programme, though it says it is only for energy production.
Turkish banks have also started distancing themselves from Iran as oil dealings have grown increasing complicated.