Istanbul still may host nuclear talks

Istanbul still may host nuclear talks

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Istanbul still may host nuclear talks

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) conveys P5+1’s position to his Iranian counterpart Salehi that Baghdad is out of the question as the venue for nuclear talks. Istanbul was declared the venue by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. AP photo

Despite Iran’s last-moment efforts, Istanbul is still the most likely venue for the nuclear talks slated for April 13 as the Western powers rejected Baghdad as a possible host city for the crucial talks.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and coordinator of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group informed Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that Baghdad was out of question and the group was happy with Istanbul’s hosting the meeting during a phone conversation late April 3.

The Hürriyet Daily News learned that Davutoğlu conveyed the position of the world powers to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in a separate phone conversation late April 3, upon Ashton’s request. Salehi hesitated to give a clear answer to Davutoğlu’s question whether Baghdad was Iran’s official choice of venue for the talks. “If they want to hold these talks in Turkey, they are most welcome. We are not in search of prestige [to be gained by hosting the talks],” Davutoğlu told reporters yesterday. “But if they do agree on another place we are still ready to contribute to the talks. What is important is to get results.”

“As of now, we can’t confirm that the nuclear talks will be held in Istanbul,” Turkish diplomatic sources told the Daily News late yesterday afternoon.

Istanbul was declared as the venue of the long-expected nuclear talks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week. Clinton’s statement came after Iranian leadership confirmed their willingness to negotiate with the P5+1 group in Istanbul during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-day visit to Tehran.

Offers for Iraq, China
The Iranian leadership seems to have changed its mind on Istanbul, as Salehi said Iran has proposed other venues such as Iraq or China for the negotiations, although Istanbul remains an acceptable location for talks. “[The suggestion of] holding the talks in Baghdad, or in China, has been put out there,” Salehi told reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Tehran. In the meantime, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari called Davutoğlu to assure him that Iraq was not in competition with Turkey for to host the talks.

An informed Iranian source in Syria also told Iranian news agency IRNA that Syria can be among one of the options to host negotiations.

“That is the position of Parliament and the government. We have proposed Baghdad, and if the other side accepts, it will be Baghdad,” Alaaddin Burujerdi, head of Iran’s Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission, told the Iranian channel Al-Alam yesterday. “Turkey is now excluded.”

Salehi’s statement also revealed that some European members of the P5+1 group rejected Istanbul as the venue for the meetings at the beginning. The Daily News has learned that it was France that opposed the idea, but that it was later convinced by the United States and United Kingdom that Istanbul would be a suitable venue.