ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey’s foreign minister encouraged dialogue to resolve the standoff over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program after meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Thursday.
Hadley’s visit to Turkey came two days before talks in Geneva in which a senior U.S. diplomat will for the first time join colleagues from other world powers at a meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.
William Burns, the No. 3 U.S. diplomat, will attend talks with Iranian envoy Saeed Jalili in Switzerland on Saturday aimed at persuading Iran to halt activities that could lead to the development of atomic weapons.
Turkey believes Iran has the right to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, but calls on Tehran to be transparent. “We want this issue to be handled through dialogue,” Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said at a news conference after meeting with Hadley, who also held talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out a military strike on Iran if it does not give up uranium enrichment and heed U.N. Security Council demands aimed at dispelling fears that Tehran wants to make nuclear weapons.
Babacan said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki would visit Ankara for talks Friday and the nuclear program would be on their agenda. Iran contends its nuclear program is only aimed at generating electricity.
Hadley, who did not make any comments about Iran, expressed condolences for three Turkish policemen who were killed during a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul last week. Three attackers were also killed. He said Turkey and the U.S. were united in fighting terrorism, including against Kurdish rebels who stage attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.
Hadley, meanwhile, praised political and economic reforms by Turkey to strengthen its bid for membership in the European Union. “Turkey has made some important democratic political reforms and free market economic reforms in the last several years and the United States believes strongly that this reform effort should continue,” Hadley said. “This reform effort is supported by the people of Turkey and it will also bring Turkey closer to the European Union,” he added. “The United States strongly supports membership for Turkey in the EU.”
The comments came as Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted party faces closure by the Constitutional Court on charges of undermining secularism, which is enshrined in Turkey’s constitution.
The court will deliver a verdict in the coming months and some say a decision to disband the party could throw the country into turmoil. The party has long denied it has an Islamic agenda.