The golden stuff (AFP/Getty)
It must rank as one of the most thankless jobs in diplomacy. Just how do you draw up incentives for Iran to rein in its nuclear programme?
Talks have lumbered on, in one incarnation or another, for a decade now. Efforts to win over Tehran have been encumbered by mutual suspicion, political sensitivities (there is always the charge of appeasement) and sheer force of law.
Many of the sanctions the Islamic Republic most objects to are already on the statute book, whether as UN Resolutions, EU agreements or US law. No wonder it is difficult to come up with a compelling offer; few countries can change their laws by fiat.
On Monday, Tehran attacked one of the latest ideas seemingly floated by the world’s major powers – the notion the US could roll back recently imposed sanctions on gold sales to Iran.
The idea may have been designed to help Western allies – notably Turkey –as much as to alleviate Iran’s economic isolation. Last year Ankara became the world’s leading gold exporter to Iran, whether directly or through entrepôts such as the UAE. Demand from the Islamic Republic helped Turkey’s overall exports of the metal reach levels of $1.5bn-$2bn some months.
The trade has various explanations – chief of which is that bank transactions with Iran have become ever more problematic, particularly in the wake of measures affecting Swift, a group that facilitates electronic funds transfers. Against this backdrop, Tehran started taking payment for its oil and gas exports to Ankara in Turkish Lira – instead of via bank transfer – and using the money to buy gold it then ships home. Read more
In the latest in a series of disagreements, Turkey’s prime minister and president have clashed over a popular Ottoman-themed soap opera. Read more
Here’s today’s food for thought:
Happier times? Syrian President Bashar al Assad, right, and his wife Asma, second left, with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine in Bodrum in August 2008
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time – just four years ago – when the leaders of Turkey and Syria could meet with their wives at a sunkissed beach resort, smile, share a meal, and discuss ‘regional peace efforts’. Things are different now. On Thursday, the Turkish parliament voted to authorise the deployment of troops in Syria; a response to the firing of a Syrian shell that killed five people in a Turkish border town. The incident in Akcakale brought to the surface months of simmering hostility between the two countries. While Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, insists he does not want to start a war, the situation is volatile, and even small moves in the coming weeks could reverberate across the region.
In the FT
- In this analysis piece from September 24, the FT’s Turkey correspondent Daniel Dombey takes an in-depth look at how the turmoil in Syria has sent shockwaves through Turkey’s economy, domestic political scene and unsettled its relations with neighbours and allies. “The poison let loose by the fighting in Syria… has seeped across the countries’ 900km border.”
- Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, famously declared he would pursue a “zero problems with the neighbours” policy – and for a while, this seemed to work. In this opinion piece from June, Gideon Rachman argues that the aspiration “has now been displaced by a real world in which Turkey in fact has awkward relations with most of its neighbours: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Israel – foremost among them.” In particular, Erdogan’s increasingly vocal criticism of Assad’s handling of the crisis has shaken Turkey’s already delicate relationship with Iran.
What are the potential implications of Turkey’s exchange of artillery fire with Syria over the last 24 hours? Read more
Here are today’s reading nuggets for you: Read more
By Ruona Agbroko
Today’s selection of interesting articles from around the web: Read more
Fighters loyal to the Free Syrian Army prepare their weapons (Lo/AFP/GettyImages)
Activists close to the Free Syrian Army say that recent defections from the regime include a general who was associated with non-conventional weapons, adding that he is the most senior military official to join the opposition thus far.
Syria has an arsenal of chemical weapons, allegedly including significant stocks of nerve gas, that has been high on the list of concerns of western governments and Israel.
The activists say they expect the general will now help them restructure the leadership of the rebels. “He has a lot of information about the deployment of security forces and the regime’s assets,” one activist says. The general, whose name is likely to be made public in the next few days, is thought to have left his post a month ago and gone into hiding before being smuggled to Turkey. Read more