Iran nuke talks in Istanbul
Tehran - Iran on Monday confirmed that
nuclear talks this week with world powers would take place in Istanbul,
dropping public reservations over that city as venue following a sharp-worded
row with Turkey.
If the Istanbul negotiations with the P5+1
group - the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany - on
Saturday prove fruitful, another round of talks could be held in Baghdad, the
office of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said.
"The first round of talks between Iran
and the P5+1 will be held on April 14 in Istanbul and a second round will be
held in Baghdad" at a date to be mutually agreed, said the statement from
the Supreme National Security Council headed by Jalili.
The confirmation appeared to put an end to
Iran's see-sawing position on Istanbul that cast a cloud of doubt over the
talks in recent days.
Tehran had at first enthusiastically embraced
the Turkish city as the ideal venue for the talks. US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton even went as far as to declare that city as the host of the
But last week Iranian officials and
politicians suddenly went cold on it, saying Turkey's support of the opposition
in Syria - Iran's chief ally - excluded Istanbul as a venue. They proposed
Baghdad instead, or possibly Damascus or Beijing.
That earned an unexpectedly virulent rebuke
from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had visited Tehran just
days earlier to discuss the talks with Iran's leaders.
"It is necessary to act honestly,"
Erdogan said last Thursday.
"They (the Iranians) continue to lose
prestige in the world because of a lack of honesty," he stormed.
By Monday, Iran had once again come around to
accepting Istanbul as the venue.
In Brussels, a spokesperson for EU foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is representing the P5+1, said "we have
agreed to launch talks in Istanbul on April 14".
He gave no indication, though, of any
discussion about further rounds of talks, or whether they would be held in
Jalili's statement underlined that Iran had
set aside its reservations and was back on board with Istanbul.
But the incident added to strains already apparent
in bilateral relations.
Turkey, which lies over Iran's northern
border, sources a third of its oil imports from Iran, and it has in the past
two years sought to position itself as a diplomatic bridge between the Islamic
republic and the West.
But Ankara's decision to install an early
warning system for a Nato-led anti-missile shield seen as protection from
Iranian missiles sparked unease in Tehran last year.
And in recent weeks, Turkey has joined
US-imposed sanctions by cutting Iranian oil imports by 20 percent, triggering
It is Turkey's position on Syria, though,
that has greatly irritated Iran.
On April 1, Istanbul served as the venue for
a "Friends of Syria" conference gathering countries sympathetic to
rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran has repeatedly vowed to stand by Assad,
and has been giving him political and material support as he cracks down on
unrest. The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in
Syria since the violence started a year ago.