Obama seeks Turkey's support on Iran nuclear issue

As Obama mulls sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, he meets Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House today. Ankara's rising economic ties with Tehran could undercut sanctions.

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As international concern grows over Iran's nuclear ambitions, President Obama will on Monday seek to engage Turkey – a rising power in Mideast diplomacy and member of the United Nations Security Council – in the West's effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.

Mr. Obama's meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the White House on Monday comes amid concerns that increased economic ties between Ankara and Tehran could undermine efforts to punish the Islamic regime should it ignore Obama's year-end deadline for reaching a negotiated solution to its disputed nuclear program.

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Turkey has expanded trade with Iran, and now gets 20 percent of its natural gas from its neighbor. Erdogan also visited the Iranian capital in October, and defended the country's program as indeed "peaceful," reports Bloomberg.

More broadly, Turkey has shifted its foreign policy stance to focus on regional ties, at least partially because its bid to join the European Union has been frustrated, reports the Telegraph. That could have a cooling effect on its relations with traditional Western powers.

Kürşat Tüzmen, a Turkish political leader and former foreign trade minister, claimed that the new regional orientation would actually benefit the United States, according to Today's Zaman in Istanbul.

Another way in which Obama is likely to seek Turkey's help in the region is by asking the country to commit troops to Afghanistan. Erdogan's remarks that his country has done all it can militarily in Afghanistan may come as a disappointment to the US president after he committed another 30,000 troops to the effort – and serve as another thorn in their relations.

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