‘West won`t punish Turkey over Iran sanctions’
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Last Updated: Sunday, March 11, 2012, 20:42
Ankara: The West is angered about Turkey's refusal to go along with it on Iran sanctions, but unlikely to try to punish Ankara as it needs help with neighbouring Syria, say analysts.

While Washington and Brussels are ardent supporters of sanctions to force Iran to abandon its contested nuclear programme, Turkey believes tough measures will backfire and instead backs the policy of engagement and diplomacy.

Turkish officials have refused to join the latest US and EU sanctions against Iran, which include a ban on oil imports, and are only bound by UN Security Council measures.

But analysts said that while Turkey has come pressure from Washington, it will be protected from its wrath largely because of the Syrian crisis on its doorstep.

"First of all, the Obama administration needs Turkey's help in contending with the Arab political uprisings, especially the difficult situation in Syria," said Barbara Slavin, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Since the outbreak of the uprisings in mid-March last year, Ankara and Washington have been coordinating policies on how to respond to President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on dissent which has claimed over 7,600 lives according to UN estimates.

Both have called on Assad to step down, and also worry the unrest could deepen in a region already jolted by last year's Arab Spring uprisings.

Indeed, the Turkish government "is taking the opposite side from Iran on the Syrian crisis," said Slavin. As Syria's closest ally in the region, Iran has stood behind the regime in Damascus while Turkey accused it of "mercilessly murdering" its own people.

The unrest in Syria is not the only divergence in Turkish-Iranian ties.

Ankara's decision to allow a early radar system to be stationed on its soil as part of a NATO missile defense scheme is another source of tension in the two neighbours' relationship.

Turkey, a member of NATO since 1952, has insisted that Iran is not target of the radar but Turkish pleas fell on deaf ears in Tehran which warned that Ankara's consent would create tension and lead to "complicated consequences."

Turkish willingness to get tough with Syria's brutal crackdown and to host NATO radar system on its soil have proved Turkey is still anchored to the West.

Only two years ago, a Turkish veto of a UN Security Council resolution calling for tougher sanctions against Iran shocked Washington, rekindling debates over EU hopeful Turkey's East-West orientation.


First Published: Sunday, March 11, 2012, 20:42

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