Turkey's president on its relations with Iran, Israel and the U.S.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who led his nation's delegation to the U.N. General Assembly this week, sat down with The Post's Lally Weymouth to discuss Turkey's relations with the United States, Israel and Iran. Excerpts:

Q. In June, Turkey voted against the U.S.-sponsored U.N. sanctions [against Iran]. . . . Wasn't this a break in relations between Turkey and the West?

A. We are a NATO member and we are against nuclear weapons in our region. We believe the solution must come through diplomatic channels and diplomatic means. If there is a war in the region, that will affect us as, for example, the war in Iraq has affected us.

I think the [permanent members of the Security Council] and President Obama and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton feel very strongly that the only way to get Iran to stop building a nuclear program is to put tighter sanctions on the Iranians.

This is not correct [that we have not cooperated]. When there are binding sanctions, we abide by those binding sanctions.

There was a Reuters story published [Monday] that Turkey is allowing an Iranian bank to operate [on its soil]. Reportedly, this bank is key to building Iran's nuclear program and it is only allowed to operate in Turkey because sanctions have been put on the bank elsewhere.

I did see that report. But if it falls within the sanctions not to permit it, it wouldn't have happened.

It does fall within the sanctions to not permit it.

That means it is not going to happen.

Don't you think that Iran is building nuclear weapons?

Iran is a member of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and is also party to the [Non-Proliferation Treaty]. The issue here is for Iran to be more transparent. That is where there is a problem. . . . There shouldn't be any question mark in your mind that Turkey in any way would look favorably upon Iran having a nuclear weapon. . . . The issue here is to see whether or not nuclear weapons are being produced and that has to be understood through diplomatic means.

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