ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey would consider serving as mediator between Iran and the United States, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Sunday after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and shortly before leaving for Tehran.
Turkey would weigh any requests by the two sides to serve as a mediator and current efforts to open a dialogue are “an important opportunity,” Babacan told reporters before leaving for Tehran for an Economic Cooperation Organizationmeeting chaired by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Clinton, who was in Ankara for talks with Babacan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, said in an interview on Turkish television on Saturday that the United States would ask Turkey to help push forward U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to engage Iran.
Turkey, the only predominantly Muslim member of NATO, has said it can help resolve the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear programme between the United States, its traditional ally, and its neighbor Iran, with which it also enjoys good ties.
“We can contribute to bringing relations between the two countries to a much better place, and our hope is that this search for dialogue will bring concrete results,” Babacan said, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency.
Turkish officials are working to create “better understanding” between the United States and Iran and both sides are pleased with its efforts, Babacan said earlier in an interview with the broadcaster NTV.
Babacan said he would not carry a message from the United States to Iranian officials during his current visit.
Turkey has advised both the United States and Iran that dialogue and diplomacy are key to lowering tension and that tough statements by both sides have yielded few results so far, Babacan said.
Clinton was in Turkey on Saturday, the last stop in her week-long trip to the Middle East and Europe. She praised Turkey’s role as a mediator between Syria and Israel.
The United States has accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb, while Tehran says its atomic programme is aimed at producing nuclear power to meet its growing energy needs.
The United States cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 1980, during the hostage crisis in which Iranian students held 52 Americans captive for 444 days following the Iranian revolution.
Writing by Ayla Jean Yackley, editing by Tim Pearce