(Updates with Turkish minister quote in third paragraph and background from fourth.)
Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Turkey will give a letter from Iran to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton asking to revive talks on the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear program, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.
The letter, from Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, will be submitted by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and asks Ashton to determine a place and a time for negotiations, said Salehi, speaking in Ankara at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart. Salehi said he favored Istanbul as a location.
“Today is the time for talks and a solution,” Davutoglu said. “It’s important to start negotiations and decrease tension.”
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to decide on a ban on Iranian oil at a Jan. 23 meeting in Brussels. The proposed embargo, which requires unanimity among the bloc’s 27 states, is part of U.S. and European efforts to tighten economic sanctions aimed at deterring Iran’s nuclear program. They say Iran may be seeking to develop atomic weapons, a charge that the Islamic republic rejects.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks with Vice President Reza Rahimi warning on Dec. 27 that Iran, the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia, may close the Strait of Hormuz if western nations block its crude oil sales. Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, said on the Charlie Rose Show yesterday that his country doesn’t plan to do so “unless Iran is threatened seriously and somebody wants to tighten the noose.”
Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahari said yesterday that the U.S. called for direct talks with Iran in a letter sent last week, which also included a warning that the closing of the Strait of Hormuz would constitute a “red line.” The U.S. has been communicating with Iran’s top leaders and has a “number of ways” at its disposal, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Jan. 13, without giving details.
The U.S. should stop “double-dealing” with Iran and pursue with goodwill what he said was a proposal of direct talks by President Barack Obama, Salehi told Turkey’s NTV news channel in an interview earlier today.
The U.S. “shows muscle” and risks destabilizing the Middle East while secretly seeking to engage Iran in negotiations, Salehi said. The security of the Strait of Hormuz is crucial to Iran, he said, urging other countries in the region to resist being dragged into a conflict.
Iran held negotiations with world powers in January last year but talks broke down without any commitments to hold future negotiations. Ashton said at the time that she was “disappointed” that Iran brought fresh preconditions and demanded that UN sanctions be lifted before substantive talks about its nuclear work could begin.
--Editors: Leon Mangasarian, Alan Crawford.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emre Peker in Ankara at firstname.lastname@example.org; Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at email@example.com
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