Erdogan, Obama discuss latest developments in Middle East

Erdogan, Obama discuss latest developments in Middle East

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Barack Obama spoke on phone on Friday to discuss regional developments, Today's Zaman reported.

Turkish Prime Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Erdogan and Obama discussed issues related to the security and development of the Middle East and North Africa.

The statement said the two leaders discussed ways to continue supporting a broad-based government in Baghdad that will bring stability, democracy and prosperity.

Erdogan's discussion with Obama came two days after the Turkish prime minister talked to his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, warning him that arrest warrant he issued for one of his Sunni vice presidents, also a close friend of Turkey, will hurt democracy in the war-torn country.

Erdogan told Maliki to take steps to reduce tensions in Iraq following a series of bombings in the capital of Baghdad after Maliki issued an arrest warrant for Tariq Hashemi last month.

Many attacks in recent days in Iraq have targeted the country's Shiite majority, increasing fears of a serious outbreak of sectarian violence following the withdrawal of US troops last month.

Large-scale sectarian fighting pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007. Well-armed Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias continue to operate in the country.

The increase in violence comes as Iraq's leaders remain locked in a political crisis that is stoking tensions between the Shiite majority now in power and the country's Sunnis, who benefited most from ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's rule.

The leaders of Iraq's rival sects have been locked in a standoff since last month, when the Shiite-dominated government called for Hashemi's arrest on terrorism charges, just as the last American troops were completing their withdrawal from the country. Hashemi, Iraq's highest-ranking Sunni politician, remains holed up in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, out of reach of state security forces.

Obama and Erdogan also discussed recent developments in Syria and agreed that both countries will continue condemning Syrian regime's brutal military crackdown on protesters and will support legitimate demands of Syrian people.

The statement added that both leaders expressed that there is a need for Iran to continue its dialogue with international community with respect to its suspected nuclear program.

Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, who is on a visit to Turkey, said on Thursday that he believes that the standoff over his country's nuclear program can be solved through serious talks.

Larijani told a news conference after meeting Turkish leaders in Ankara that Tehran supports the idea of holding further talks in Turkey. Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, recently said he had called on six powers - the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - to resume talks.

Turkey, a US ally that relies on Iranian oil and gas imports, signaled Thursday that it will not comply with American sanctions against Iran regarding its nuclear program.

Turkey indicated that it will only enforce sanctions that have been approved by the United Nations, and its announcement is a setback to US sanctions aimed at halting what Western governments say is Iran's effort to develop nuclear weapons.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who visited Turkey earlier this week, said the United States and Turkey share a broad strategic concern about the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

Ankara has agreed to host NATO's early warning radar as part of NATO's missile defense system, which is capable of countering ballistic missile threats from Iran. Turkey insists the shield doesn't target a specific country, but Tehran says the radar is meant to protect Israel from Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the United States and or Israel.

The Jewish state, which views Tehran as a threat, has warned of a possible strike on Iran's nuclear program. Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, has threatened to respond to sanctions by shutting the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for a fifth of the world's oil.

Turkey said it would evaluate the content of the US sanctions, but Turkey's biggest crude oil importer Tupras already has renewed a contract to continue to import crude oil from Iran in 2012.

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