Fearing further trouble in the volatile region, Turkey has warned Saudi Arabia and Iran, at odds over the Saudi intervention in Bahrain, to act with restraint and avoid actions that would undermine peace and stability.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned his Saudi and Iranian counterparts against creating problems in the Middle East, calling on both sides to act with restraint following their spat over Bahrain, the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review has learned.

In phone conversations with the two countries' foreign ministers, Davutoğlu said peace and stability are a dire need for the turbulent region and should not be undermined.

Davutoğlu spoke twice on the phone with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, first in Ankara before departing for Russia and then in Moscow late Tuesday, diplomatic sources told the Daily News. The Turkish foreign minister also held a telephone conversation with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, who expressed willingness to visit Turkey soon.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may also hold bilateral talks with Saudi Arabian officials on the sidelines of the Jeddah Economic Forum from Saturday to Tuesday.

Iran has criticized Saudi Arabia's decision to send more than 1,000 troops to Bahrain at the request of the country's Sunni rulers. The United Arab Emirates has sent 500 policemen to Bahrain and Qatar has said it would also send police.

"The presence of foreign troops and meddling in Bahrain's internal affairs will only further complicate the issue," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies. Iran, which sits across the Gulf from Bahrain, has summoned the Saudi Arabian ambassador to discuss the situation.

A Bahraini foreign ministry official called Iran's remarks "blatant interference in Bahrain's internal affairs," the state news agency BNA said, adding that Bahrain had recalled its ambassador to Iran for consultations.

Bahrain has been gripped by its worst unrest since the 1990s after protesters took to the streets last month, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.

The latest crisis between the country's Shiite majority and its dominant Sunni minority has also, with the arrival of Saudi troops, revealed the regional hostilities between Sunni Arab countries and non-Arab Shiite Iran.

More than 60 percent of Bahrainis are Shiites, many of whom complain of discrimination by the ruling Sunni royal family.

Diplomatic sources said Davutoğlu also spoke on the phone with his counterparts from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya.



The European Parliament's rapporteur for Turkey, Ria-Oomen Ruijten, sent a letter to Prime Minister Erdogan, who had said Ruijten's report was unbalanced.

Ruijten said: "The report indicates three clauses well appreciated, 19 developments received gladly, 5 clauses received sadly and 3 developments received deeply sad. This is not a math calculation, but it shows that our goal is not to criticize but to advise and remember certain issues."



Turkey will press on with its plans to build its first nuclear power plant, despite being situated in an earthquake fault line and despite Japan's nuclear accident, the country's prime minister said.

"We are now counting the months, even weeks, before we start our project with Russia for the nuclear plant at Akkuyu," on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said late Tuesday during a visit to Moscow

Erdogan told a forum of Russian and Turkish business leaders that "everything is ready" for construction to begin on the plant. "We are going to commit to a nuclear program an investment of $20 billion," the Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying.

Before leaving Ankara for the visit, the prime minister said the government would not go back on its decision to build three nuclear plants within the next five years, despite the crisis in Japan.

"There is no investment without risk," Erdogan said.

Ankara and Moscow signed a deal in May last year to build the first nuclear reactor, sparking protests from environmentalists who warned of the dangers of locating it in a region known for seismic activity.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkey had demanded that extra security measures be taken in building the plant, given its location.

Turkey suffered a massive earthquake in 1998 that killed 140 people in Adana, its fifth largest city, close to Mersin, the province where the nuclear power plant is to be built.



Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that economic, political, military and cultural relations had been further improving between Turkey and Russia.

Prime Minister Erdogan attended the Turkey-Russia Business Forum as part of his official visit to Moscow. He recalled that they decided to establish a high-level cooperation council during Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev's visit to Turkey in May 2010, adding, "today, we are in Moscow to attend the second meeting of the council. Economic, political, military and cultural relations have been further improving between our countries. The council has added a new dimension to our multi-dimensional relations with Russia."

"Turkey-Russia Joint Economic Committee held its 11th meeting in Kazan on March 2 and 4, 2011. During the meeting, many important decisions were made about energy, agriculture, trade and transportation. We agreed to develop our cooperation in automotive industry, chemistry, shipbuilding, the health industry and the aviation industry. Another decision made at the meeting was to establish a working group to develop cooperation in banking and finance," he said.

Referring to economic and commercial relations, Prime Minister Erdogan said: "Our trade volume exceeded $26 billion in 2010. We want to increase our trade volume to $100 billion in the next five years. Turkish construction firms have already undertaken nearly 1,200 projects in Russia worth of $32 billion."

"Despite the global financial crisis, Turkey hosted three million Russian tourists in 2008, 2.7 million in 2009 and 3.1 million in 2010. I believe the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey will increase in 2011. We invite Russian people to benefit from Turkey's tourism opportunities," he said.

"Energy is the most important dimension of our economic and commercial relations. In the next twenty years, energy investments worth of $100 billion will be made in Turkey. I think that such an environment will create new cooperation opportunities between our countries. As you know, we are about to begin construction of a nuclear power plant in cooperation with Russia. It will cost about $20 billion. We also attach great importance to establish a large Turkish logistic center in southern Russia," he added.



The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that a cargo plane from Iran had been required to land in Southeast Turkey.

"The security checks are continuing at Diyarbakır airport," a Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. The official declined to elaborate further and only said the checks would target both the plane's documents and its cargo. The plane belongs to YAS, an Iranian transportation company.

An Iranian Embassy official in Ankara told the Daily News that the plane landed in Diyarbakır for refueling.

"The plane is now about to take off. There is no problem at all," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Doğan news agency (DHA), reported that Turkish fighter jets forced the plane to land Tuesday night at Diyarbakır airport so it could be searched for an alleged cargo of weapons being shipped from Iran to Syria.

The Turkish ministry official said it is a routine procedure for some foreign cargo planes to request permission to fly over Turkey and sometimes be required to make unscheduled landings to be searched.

"This Iranian cargo plane received permission but, even in this situation, we can ask some planes to make an unscheduled landing for technical reasons," the official said. "We have done this with other planes in the past."

The Anatolia news agency said the plane was heading from Tehran to Aleppo.

DHA said the plane was asked to make an unscheduled landing based on tip-offs that it was carrying nuclear weapons. The ministry did not provide any information about the plane's cargo.



The visa procedure between Turkey and Russia officially ended during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Moscow. Turks who go to Russia after April 17 will not need a visa for entry and will be able to stay in that country for up to 30 days.

Erdogan underlined the importance of lifting visa procedures, and said he was expecting a significant rise in the number of Russian tourists this year.



Four million votes are needed to cross the 10 percent electoral threshold in Turkey. The Peace & Democracy Party (BDP) can get enough votes if it joins the upcoming general elections as a party.


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