Haaretz (Link) - Reuters (September 24, 2010)
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Friday Turkey�s direct relations with Iran remain the best way to achieve a diplomatic solution for keeping Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Turkey voted against the latest round of UN sanctions aimed at putting pressure on Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
The United States, a key Turkish ally and fellow member of NATO, suspects Iran seeks to develop atomic weapons and is leading the effort to thwart its nuclear ambitions.
Gul, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations while attending the UN General Assembly meeting, addressed criticism that Turkey was shifting its orientation away from the West by engaging with Iran.
�If you look at all our allies, which leaders among those countries have the ability to be able to have direct discussions with the Iranian leaders, including the supreme religious leader?� Gul asked.
�There isn�t anyone,� he said, adding its engagement is for moving the process forward and should not be misunderstood.
�As was the case in the past, Turkey is and will remain a strong committed and reliable ally of the United States,� he said.
Gul once again criticized Israel�s actions in its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May. The incident has damaged relations between the two nations.
�Having said that, I must also emphasize that Turkey and Israel are friends. There are strong, centuries-old ties of friendship between our peoples.�
On Turkey�s European Union accession talks, Gul said the country remains committed to completing the process despite slow progress that he blamed on Europe.
�Europe today lacks a strategic vision, a strategic perspective of what it wants to be 50-60 years down the road,� he said. �