Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaking at a news conference in Istanbul on June 22, 2010. Photo by Reuters
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The foreign ministers of Turkey and Brazil, speaking Sunday ahead of a trilateral meeting with their Iranian counterpart, said they still believe in the nuclear swap deal signed between the three countries in May.

Turkey and Brazil mediated and persuaded Iran during a meeting in Tehran in May to store 1,200 kilograms of its low enriched uranium in Turkey until the fuel for Tehran's research reactor is delivered.

The Tehran agreement was, however, rejected by world powers as insufficient. The United Nations Security Council then imposed a new resolution and fresh sanctions on Iran last month in response to its nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday said he believes the swap deal could still be useful as a diplomatic tool. "The Tehran agreement has created a framework," he said during a press conference with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

"This is a facilitating instrument for increasing confidence building measures."

Davutoglu and Amorim met prior to a scheduled luncheon with their Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki.

"We will always encourage Iran to take a flexible position. I think that's in their interest," Amorim said. "But I think that other countries should act accordingly."

"We believe Iran should be able to pursue a peaceful nuclear program, but also give the world assurances that it has no military component."

Amorim is in Turkey as part of a Middle East tour that will also take him to Israel and Syria. Turkish officials said the meeting with Mottaki was added at the last minute at the request of Tehran.

The meeting comes one day before European Union foreign ministers reportedly plan to approve the "toughest ever" sanctions against Iran during a meeting in Brussels. 

Davutoglu also said that Iran had expressed willingness to hold talks with the European Union about its nuclear program after the end of the month of Ramadan in early September.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign affairs chief, wrote to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili last month inviting him to resume negotiations.

"Mr Mottaki confirmed that he was in favor of the meeting after Ramadan. Obviously that depends on the flow of developments, but nobody is against holding the meeting in principle," Davutoglu said.

He was referring to comments made by Mottaki before his latest visit to Turkey. The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in the first half of September.

"As soon as possible we are trying to start negotiations again between Iran and P5+1 and we will also do our best in order to start the technical negotiations as soon as possible," the Turkish foreign minister added.

The P5+1 comprise the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - as well as Germany who have been locked in a protracted standoff with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Under the May deal, Iran agreed to transfer 1,200 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey within a month and in return receive, within a year, 120 kg of 20 percent-enriched uranium to keep Tehran's medical research reactor running.

But Western diplomats said removing from Iran 1,200 kg - enough, if highly enriched, to make a nuclear weapon - was less significant than when it was first brokered in October last year because Iran's stockpile had doubled in the interim.

At the time of the original deal in principle, which Iran backed out of soon afterwards, 1,200 kg represented about 70 percent of the country's known LEU reserve.

The Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran on June 9. Brazil and Turkey voted against, angry at the West's dismissal of their deal which they said made new sanctions unnecessary.