Turkey has called for the resumption of talks between Iran and six major world powers over Tehran's controversial nuclear program. Ankara says this could help defuse regional tensions that have intensified this month.
The talks with Iran - which involve the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany - have been stalled for a year.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday all sides have expressed a willingness to resume the nuclear talks. Speaking at a joint news conference with his visiting Iranian counterpart, Davutoglu said Turkey is ready to host the negotiations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called on the six countries to renew the talks without "excuses."
Tensions between Iran and the West have risen in recent weeks, as Washington and its EU allies have moved to strengthen sanctions on Tehran to pressure it to stop nuclear activities they suspect are aimed at developing weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
Tehran has responded to the tightening of Western sanctions by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital passageway for global oil supplies. Washington has said such a move would not be tolerated.
The assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran earlier this month also prompted Iran to blame the attack on the United States and its ally Israel and call for revenge. Washington has denied involvement while Israel has not commented officially on the incident.
U.S. Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey was due to visit Israel later Thursday for talks on security issues, including U.S. and Israeli concerns about the Iranian nuclear program.
The Israeli government says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to Israel's existence. Israel and the United States refuse to rule out military force to prevent such an outcome.
But U.S. officials publicly have urged Israel to avoid unilateral action and give more time for diplomatic pressure and sanctions on Iran to work. Israeli leaders recently have expressed concern that international sanctions have not curbed Iran's sensitive nuclear activities.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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