Reuters: The United States is disappointed that Turkey voted against a U.N. resolution on Iran sanctions, but the decision will not affect U.S.-Turkish military ties, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.
BRUSSELS, June 11 (Reuters) – The United States is disappointed that Turkey voted against a U.N. resolution on Iran sanctions, but the decision will not affect U.S.-Turkish military ties, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.
Speaking after a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels, Gates said Turkey was an important NATO ally and pointed out that allies did not always get along.
He also said the world had time to make sanctions bite against Iran and to try to stall its nuclear enrichment programme, saying it could be up to three years before Tehran develops a nuclear weapons capability.
“I was disappointed by the Turkey vote on the Iranian sanctions,” Gates told reporters.
“That said, Turkey is a decades-long ally of the United States and other members of NATO … Allies don’t always agree.
“Turkey continues to play a critical part in the alliance,” he added. “We have a strong military-to-military relationship.”
Turkey joined Brazil in voting against the U.N. resolution on Wednesday, saying it believed there was time to negotiate with Iran over its uranium enrichment policy. The resolution still passed, with 12 Security Council votes in favour.
Turkey and Brazil struck a fuel-exchange deal with Iran last month that they hoped would remove the need for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions, but in the end the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China pushed on with the measures.
The sanctions are designed to target Iranian banks and insurance companies, as well as the Iranian state shipping company IRISL. The EU and the United States also plan to impose an extra layer of sanctions on top of those restrictions.
Asked how long the United States was prepared to wait before signs that the sanctions were having an impact, Gates said there was still up to three years before Iran was capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.
“I think that everybody agrees we have some more time, including the Israelis, and we will just continue to work it,” he said.
“Most people think that the Iranians could not really have any nuclear weapons for at least another year or two. I would say the intelligence estimates range from one to three years,” he said, adding that it could take even longer for them to have a fully-fledged weapons delivery system.
“But clearly them getting to the threshold of having the weapons is what concerns everybody,” he added.
(Editing by Noah Barkin)