ANKARA (Reuters) - NATO-member Turkey on Wednesday rebuffed calls from ally the United States to support more sanctions against Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, saying diplomacy should be given more chance.
Turkey, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has been leery of a U.S.-led push to back new sanctions on fellow Muslim nation Iran, which the West suspects is trying to develop atomic bombs.
“There is still an opportunity ahead of us and we believe that this opportunity should be used effectively. Not less, but more diplomacy (is needed),” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told a news conference.
Last week, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon, the U.S. State Department’s top diplomat for Europe, urged Turkey to support more sanctions against Iran, saying Ankara could face consequences if it moves out of step with the international community.
Turkey, which has applied to join the European Union, is not the only country that insists on more diplomacy with Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
China, a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security Council, along with non-permanent member Brazil, have urged more time for diplomacy with Iran.
Turkey has boosted ties with Iran and other Muslim neighbors since the Islamist-leaning AK Party first took office in 2002, and some commentators have expressed concern Ankara might be tilting away from its long-time Western allies.
Turkey has offered to use its access to the Iranian leadership to solve the nuclear dispute but frequent trips by Turkish officials to Tehran have failed to produce a breakthrough.
“We think that Iran has good intentions on this issue and wants a solution. Otherwise, we would not be making such efforts. We inform our Western friends regularly about the impressions we get (from talks with Iran),” Ozugergin said.
He reiterated Ankara’s opposition to any Middle Eastern country acquiring nuclear weapons and said Iran had the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes like all other countries.
Editing by Janet Lawrence