Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cozied up to Iran during a visit to Tehran on Wednesday and rejected outside pressure on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
“No one has the right to impose anything on anyone with regards to nuclear energy, provided that it is for peaceful purposes,” Erdoğan said at a news conference after talks with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. “Everyone with commonsense opposes nuclear weapons,” he added.
Erdogan – who is in Tehran for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials – offered to host talks between Iran and world powers to bring about a negotiated settlement over an ongoing dispute about its nuclear program.
Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has refused to meet its obligations under international law and barred international inspectors from entering key nuclear sites.
The US and its allies charge Iran is seeking nuclear weapons in violation of the NPT, which has been buttressed by two recent International Atomic Energy Agency reports citing Iran's obstruction of inspectors and intelligence reports indicating Tehran has sought – and continues to seek – technology of a nuclear nature.
The UN nuclear watchdog has also raised pointed questions about Iran's push to enrich its uranium stockpiles to 20% purity, a key jumping off point should Iran make a dash to enrich its uranium to the 93% needed for nuclear weapons.
Iran says it is enriching uranium to 20% in order to research medical isotopes, but proliferation experts say Tehran is enriching far more uranium than is necessary for that purpose and does not have a sufficiently advanced medical research sector to support the claim.
Turkey has built close economic ties with Iran and has been at odds with Washington over how to induce Tehran to halt its nuclear program, arguing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff instead of sanctions - with the final banking channels to Tehran going through Ankara.
However, Turkey has also decided to host NATO defense shield radar that would warn of any Iranian ballistic missiles in the region, sparking protests from some Iranian officials.
Negotiations between Iran and the group of P5+1 – consisting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – are expected to resume in April.
Tehran signaled ahead of the talks that it is willing to allow “permanent human monitoring” of its nuclear sites and “full transparency” if the West agrees to sell it enriched uranium and provide civilian nuclear assistance.
Iran did not specifically say it would suspend its uranium enrichment program – a key demand by Washington and Jerusalem to avert a potential military strike – but analysts say the condition of uranium sales implies the issue will be “on the table.”