Resumption of Negotiations between Iran and P5+1

Friday, January 20, 2012

Abolqasem Qasemzadeh

The recent visit to Iran by the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took place in the height of the ongoing media cold war between Iran and the West. It also took place at a time that news about imposing sanctions on Iran's oil export by the United States and the European Union tops newswires. After US President Barack Obama signed into law the new sanctions against Iran's Central Bank and oil sector, the Turkish government announced that the country’s prime minister will ask Obama to exempt Turkey from those sanctions in view of Ankara’s extensive relations with its eastern neighbor. The law has, of course, allowed the US president to exempt certain countries from the sanctions. Thus far, Turkey and South Korea, both importers of Iran's crude oil, have made such requests on the US president.

Turkey has been trying to show its cordiality to Iran through its foreign policy approaches as well as at regional and international levels. The country’s government also avoids of any move which may cause distance between the two countries. Although Turkey considers Iran a powerful rival in regional political scene, it has regularly taken advantage of the leverage of good relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran as it understands Iran's popularity and position among the Islamic countries. Iran's trade relations with Turkey are at the highest level compared to other Middle Eastern states. Turkey’s tourism has also been benefited from good relations between Tehran and Ankara. The two country’s peoples have presented a good model of friendship and brotherhood between two Muslim neighboring countries. At the same time, Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and has accepted to host the organization’s missile defense system, which in fact is an American missile defense shield. It has also submitted its official request for membership in the European Union and pursues it as one of its main goals. Turkey, however, has taken a different approach to the crisis in Syria from that of Iran. The government of Turkey has recognized Israel and has established political relations with it. Turkey, on the other hand, has been trying to keep differences between Iran and the West (US and EU) contained within the limits of negotiations and prevent a possible military faceoff between the two sides. Turkey defines Iran’s relations with the West in line with its own national interests and believes that détente between Iran and Europe will be beneficial to its national interests. This is why Turkey has been trying to catalyze resumption of negotiations between Iran and group 5+1 (consisting of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany).

After his visit to Tehran and negotiations with his Iranian counterpart, the Turkish foreign minister announced that Iran and P5+1 will resume negotiations at a venue in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara. Both Iran and EU foreign policy chief have allowed for Turkey’s presence in the new round of negotiations.

Political analysts have interpreted news about resumption of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 in two ways. Some believe that Iran and the West (US and EU) are trying to buy time. They say although both sides put the highest emphasis on war propaganda, their politicians are aware that the war would not benefit either side as everybody knows that both regional countries and European states are suffering from severe economic crisis and will be greatly damaged by a possible war. On the other hand, China and Russia have been issuing regular warnings about creation of more chaos in an already turbulent Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Both global powers have argued that resumption of negotiations is the best way out of the current crisis and maintain that a suitable solution can be achieved through dialogue. Political analysts have pointed to the fact that Japan supplies 70 percent of its needed oil from the Persian Gulf. This group of analysts considers the Persian Gulf as beating heart of the world’s and Japan's energy. Each day a total of 17-18 million barrels of oil pass through the strategic Strait of Hormuz. They are not very optimistic about future outlook of negotiations in Ankara as they believe that both sides are just trying to buy more time at a time that further escalation of tension is not far away.

The second group of analysts starts by analyzing the existing economic conditions in the West (US and EU). They have written in their reports that resumption of negotiations between Iran and Europe under present conditions is not just an option, but an unavoidable must. The West is imposing tougher sanctions against Iran. Continuation of the current political trend and imposition of further sanctions has become increasingly costlier for the West. Those costs are not simply economical, but the governments in US and Europe are well aware of Iran’s important position in a crisis-ridden Middle East. Any warmongering in Iran will inevitably engulf other Middle Eastern countries and the West fears uncontrollable spread of war. The policy of sanctions has also a certain ceiling. If sanctions go beyond that ceiling, the results may easily get out of hands and prove uncontrollable by both sides.

The West (US and EU) try to show that they are serious in their offer for negotiation with Iran. They also want to divide the existing differences in primary and secondary groups and only focus on primary differences in Ankara. This has clearly been announced by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Ms. Catherine Ashton. After Turkey’s foreign minister announced resumption of Iran's negotiations with 5+1 in Ankara, Ashton noted that the only condition for the negotiations was for both sides to avoid of focusing on marginal issues and reach a conclusion on more important problems. She added that a list of primary concerns of EU has already been given to the Iranian officials. This group of analysts has reached the conclusion that negotiations in Ankara have got to be a turning point. The new round of talks may either end in complete cessation of negotiations for good, or clear the way for achieving a suitable solution.

From any viewpoint, it is a reality that the West is currently putting less emphasis on war because resumption of talks would require both sides to avoid of the continuation of the ongoing war of nerves. Everybody knows that crises and differences can be solved without taking hectic positions which sometimes defy sound consideration of cost-benefit balance. The war of words will lead to a destructive end where everybody will lose.

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review

More By Abolqasem Qasemzadeh:

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