Export of Iranian gas to Europe will strengthen Tehran status: expert

September 25, 2007

TEHRAN -- Arzu Celalifer Ekinci, an expert on the Turkey-Iran relations who works at the Ankara-based ISRO Center for Middle Eastern Studies, called the agreement between Tehran and Ankara for exporting Iranian and Turkmen gas to Europe via Turkey a “major step.”

In an interview with the Mehr News Agency on September 20, she also said some political and military wings in Turkey believe that the U.S. has some cooperation channels with the PKK rebels.
Following is an excerpt of the interview:
The latest MOU being signed between Turkey and Iran on exporting Iranian and Turkmen gas to Europe via Iran and Turkey was a major step. Upon the conclusion of the final agreement, Turkey will become an east-west energy corridor and also having the right to produce natural gas in three phases of South Pars gas field in Iran. This unexpected agreement for sure will have a notable effect on the ‘parameters of energy wars’ where Turkey, Russia, the U.S., the EU, and countries in southeastern Europe are trying to defend their interests.
It is both an advantageous initiative for Turkey and Iran. Turkey will gain a strategic position and almost will guarantee the energy supply. Iran will strengthen its place as an energy provider and will open a new export market for its reserves. As the dependency of the EU on Russian natural gas will decrease by that project, Iran will also be an alternative that cannot be ignored. As Iran has many problems with the U.S., being in such a position for other part of transatlantic alliance is an advantage too. And these are exactly the reasons that the U.S. was in a strong opposition. As this agreement has the capacity to strengthen the Iranian position, the U.S. is absolutely against that project. Because the U.S. tries to implement a stronger containment policy on Iran and weaken the Iranian government by isolating it and these kinds of agreements have a contrary effect on the U.S. aims and plans.
That’s why the U.S. Embassy in Ankara warned Turkish government after the mentioned agreement. But Turkey clearly explained that this is an internal issue of Turkey. And such an opportunity and agreement cannot be ignored since it serves to national interests of Turkey. It is noteworthy to mention that since many circles support this project in Turkey many others say that this initiative can endanger the Turkish-American relations. And also there are many views that do not trust Iran. They say that Iran will not finalize the MOU. But the majority in Turkey is in favor of such an important agreement. And the Turkish government gives importance to this initiative. For sure a sensitive diplomacy is required to be able to have both Iran on one side and the U.S. on the other side. Being a strategic partner of the U.S. in the region and making huge strategic cooperation with Iran.
------------- American weapons and PKK
Actually this is one of the most important issues nowadays in Turkey. We are talking about 190,000 lost American weapons and according to the various sources there are more serious claims about this number. Since some of these weapons had been found at the PKK bases it is for sure a serious problem and a big question mark for Turkey. Turkey asked for some explanations, but the U.S. explanations were not satisfying. They say that the weapons were sent to Iraqi army and they cannot explain the lost weapons, but they insist that the U.S. government did not give them to the terrorist group PKK. Pentagon just apologizes, but this apology is not enough for Turkey. That’s why the political and military wings in Turkey do believe that the U.S. has some cooperation channels with the PKK. There are also other evidences that strengthen this belief. The strongest evidence is the arrested PKK militants’ confessions. According to these people, U.S. brought the weapons by trucks to the border region and there are regular contacts among the U.S. and the PKK. On the other hand the interview made by western media in the biggest PKK camp at Qandil Mountain is the other evidence. Daily Telgraph made an interview with the head of military wing of the PKK Murat Karayilan and he also confirmed all those claims. (Weapon transfer by the U.S. and direct contacts with the U.S. soldiers). The report of Seymour Hersh which claims that the U.S. and Israel support the PEJAK against Iran is also another argument. If this argument is assumed to be true, the provided American support to sister organization of the PKK is quite noteworthy too.
That’s why Turkey does not wait for the U.S. support against the PKK anymore. Because this expectation lasted for a long time but nothing happened from U.S. side. Despite of any support Turkey just faced with various allegations in regard with the U.S.-PKK cooperation and the existence of American weapons in PKK bases.
In that case it is normal that Turkey will have cooperation with Iran against PKK and PEJAK. And as I know this cooperation has continued for 2-3 years. Since these two countries’ problem is common, the common positions and cooperation is inevitable. But Iran has some serious problems nowadays with the international platform. Nuclear crisis on one hand and problems with the U.S. on the other hand. There is also a possible ground for further tougher sanctions against Iran. Turkey is a member of the NATO, trying to complete the EU membership process and also is a member of UN and has to take initiatives in that manner. That’s why Turkey may have some reservations about a formal common operation with Iran. But they can strengthen and harmonize their parallel operations and policies against PKK/PEJAK terrorism and improve their intelligence exchange. And probably the American weapons case will contribute to this cooperation