Turkey appears to be taking a different stance than its European and
U.S. allies in the wake of Iran's elections. The Turkish president and
prime minister were among the first of the few countries to
congratulate Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his disputed
victory. Questions are being raised
in Turkey about whether it is becoming out of step with its western
allies over Iran.
Turkey's U.S. and European allies are
voicing increasing criticism of the Iranian presidential election and
crackdown by its security forces on demonstrators. But Ankara has
remained silent since Turkish President Abdullah Gul sent a
congratulatory message to his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu refused to criticize the crackdown.
says Turkey's government believes the problems in Iran will be solved
by its inner mechanisms, with the best possible result. He says Turkey
hopes Iran's dynamic and well-attended presidential election will not
be overshadowed by the recent developments.
Working to improve relations
Foreign Minster Davutoglu advocates Turkey working to improve its relations with all its neighbors, including Iran.
year while the rest of the Europe was giving the Iranian president the
cold shoulder, President Gul hosted Mr. Ahmadinejad in Istanbul. And
despite U.S. criticism, Turkey is increasingly eyeing Iran as an
alternative to Russia for its energy supplies.
journalist Akif Emre says the ruling Islamic AK Party's Iran policy
does not mean it is rejecting its Western allies.
new policy is to [maintain a] stronger relationship with the West, and
also open a new area from Africa to the Middle East and neighbors,"
That policy has seen Turkey's government courting
controversial groups like Hamas and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who
has been indicted for genocide by the International court.
Impossible balancing act
International relations expert Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul's Bachesehir
University, says trying to have close ties with Iran and the West is an
impossible balancing act.
"One cannot have double or
triple-track policies when it comes to international matters, because
what is happening in Iran is a matter of democracy," Aktar said. "So
once again. like in Sudan. the government is in total contradiction
with its allies."
Turks do not support Ahmadinejad
On the streets of Istanbul there appears
little support for Mr. Ahmadinejad or the Turkish government's stance
toward his victory.
"It is their democratic rights they want
Mousevi, but Ahmadinejad supporters manipulated votes so their rights
were stolen," one person said. "I think people are right to defend
their rights so I support them."
"I do not think the Turkish
government has had a good point ... with Iran, because starting from
our own country we should be promoting liberty more than anything
else," said another bystander.
Is policy effective?
Foreign Minister Davutoglu says
Turkey's non-confrontational stance toward Mr. Ahmadinejad puts it in
an ideal position to defuse tension between Iran and the West,
especially over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
But Professor Aktar says the Turkish foreign minister overestimates his country's importance.
might have this in mind becoming a kind of go between in the new and
hypothetical relationship that is expected between Iran and the West,"
Aktar said. "But unfortunately, neither the West nor Iran needs
Turkey for this sort of thing."
Iran has repeatedly rejected
Turkey's offer to mediate with the United States. And with the
Iranian leadership taking an increasingly tough stance towards its
election protesters, Ankara could find itself in a difficult position.
are growing from inside Iran and among Turkey's allies for tougher
sanctions against Tehran. Columnist Emre says such a move would be
hard for Ankara.
"Turkey first of all would try to keep
balance," Emre said. "But if the European Union and American state
they develop new policy against Iranian regime they will act with the
Iran's president has upped his rhetoric against
the West, while reports continue to grow of an increasing crackdown on
Iran's election protesters, which analysts say is putting more pressure
on Turkey's balancing act between the West and Iran.