Monday, June 26, 2006

Turkey: Gul's Iran Mission

Taha Akyol,
The aim of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s visit to Iran is to start a process of negotiation between the West and Iran to solve the nuclear crisis, that is, to make the parties sit at the table to discuss the Vienna package presented by the Europeans to Iran.

Before Gul left, I met with him. He didn’t want to talk about it much and he avoided showing off about his visit. ‘We don’t want to do this job in an ostentatious way,’ he said. ‘We should do this reasonably.’ Therefore, Gul didn’t make a statement about his meetings with his American, Russian, and German colleagues and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. We know that all of them wanted Gul to take such a mission, because Turkey is the only country which can convince Iran to sit down to the table. READ MORE

In addition, the silent and careful process which was conducted by Gul up to now shows that he’s the only foreign minister who can do this critical job. Gul is respected both in Iran and the West. Gul emphasized the importance of the nuclear problem with Iran as follows: ‘If two tankers sink in the Gulf, what would happen to oil prices? What would happen to the world economy? Think about it.’ The world’s most important problems are always around Turkey! Here is Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine… The Middle East will mark the 21st century with its oil, political crises and the conflict between Islam and the West.’

Turkey is harmed by these problems the most. It’s also the country which could be the most influential country so long as it can sway its neighbors. Turkey is the only country which comes to people’s mind on issues of convincing the Sunnis in Iraq and persuading Iran to sit down to the table. The West knows very well that Iran could have immediately rejected the Vienna package. However, Turkey prevented it. There’s a reason why British Prime Minister Tony Blair telephoned Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to thank him for his efforts. Turkey’s location at the intersection of three continents causes both risks and possibilities. Which country was damaged the most by the incidents in Iraq since the Gulf crisis? Which country suffered from so many tensions on its EU path? Of course, Turkey should continue its friendship and alliance with the US and its process of membership with the EU carefully. However, Turkey didn’t move to another region by turning its face to the West. The Middle East was important for the Ottomans and it’s equally important for the republic. In such a landscape, Gul’s success in his mission would prevent great troubles for everybody and open new possibilities. He will show Europeans that they can’t do without Turkey and how mistaken they are to follow Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos. Now there’s a long way ahead, extending from Iran to Washington and then again to Iran for the meeting of countries neighboring Iraq. If he succeeds, it would benefit everybody.