Turkey offers to mediate between U.S. and Iran

November 13, 2008

ANKARA (International Herald Tribune) - Turkey wants to be the mediator between the new Obama administration and Iran, using its growing role in the Middle East to bridge the divide between East and West, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in an interview.

He said Barack Obama's election as U.S. president opened new opportunities for a shift in relations between the United States and Iran, one of Turkey's neighbors. Obama said during his campaign that he would consider holding talks with Iran, which President George W. Bush opposed.
Erdogan described the note of congratulations sent to Obama last week by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as “a step that has to be made use of.”
“We are ready to be the mediator,” Erdogan said in the interview Sunday before going to the United States to attend a meeting about the global economic crisis. “I do believe we could be very useful.”
“We watch the relations between Iran and U.S. with great concern,” Erdogan said. “We expect such issues to be resolved at the table. Wars are never solutions in this age.”
Turkey argues that it is uniquely positioned to facilitate talks between Washington and Tehran. It is a NATO member, and it secured a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council in October. It is a Muslim country that has renewed relations with its Middle Eastern neighbors in recent years, achieving a breakthrough in May by bringing Israel and Syria together for talks for the first time in years.
Erdogan said that Obama's election offered a chance for the United States to regain the trust of the world and reclaim “an image that's been lost.”
He said that the United States had “declared certain values firmly at the start of the 21st century” but that “not only did they not advance, they stepped backward.”
“For me,” the prime minister said, “it's very important to put these values into practice.”
Erdogan, who is finishing his sixth year as prime minister, offered Obama some advice: “Maintain the steadiness of your spine, but don't engage in fights.”-