By Ivan Watson, CNN
Representatives from six world powers and Iran returned to the negotiating table Friday in Kazakhstan for fresh talks aimed at breaking the deadlock over Iran's controversial nuclear program.
When negotiators from the six-nation diplomatic bloc last sat down with Iran's envoy in the Kazakh city of Almaty in February, they delivered what they characterized as a "fair and balanced offer" to defuse tensions over the Iranian nuclear program.
"We are waiting to see how Iran responds to the proposal we put on the table," Michael Mann, a European Union spokesman, told journalists shortly after negotiations resumed on Friday.
Details of the offer from the six governments have not yet been made public. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton described it as a "very clear and concise proposal" for confidence building measures.
Last March, technical experts from Iran and the so-called "P5+1" countries, which consist of the United States, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia, met for more than 12 hours in Istanbul to discuss the proposal.FULL STORY
By Ivan Watson
Talks began Tuesday between six world powers and Iran over its controversial nuclear program for the first time in nearly eight months.
But the mood going into the negotiations was as gloomy as the fog that hung over this snowbound Central Asian city.
"I don't think tomorrow (Tuesday) is likely to be a day in which we can announce a great success," a diplomat participating in the negotiations told journalists on condition of anonymity on the eve of the first meeting.
Other officials were not so optimistic either.
"Most probably, the negotiations in Almaty will fail," said Hossein Mousavian, who served as Iran's nuclear negotiator until 2005.
Iran has held several rounds of negotiations with the P5 plus 1, which comprises Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The five members are the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China.
From Ivan Watson
In a potential escalation of the Syrian conflict, Turkey asked NATO on Wednesday for Patriot missiles to bolster its air defenses against its southern neighbor.
A letter to NATO included the "formal request" that the alliance send "air defense elements," according to a Turkish government statement that cited "the threats and risks posed by the continuing crisis in Syria to our national security."
The statement added that the NATO Council would convene "shortly" to consider the matter.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a Twitter post that the request would be considered without delay.
In a statement on Wednesday, Rasmussen said the letter from Turkey requested Patriot missiles that would "contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO's south-eastern border" and serve as "a concrete demonstration of alliance solidarity and resolve."
Rasmussen's statement said three NATO countries have available Patriot missiles - Germany, the Netherlands and the United States - and it would be up to them to decide if they can deploy them and for how long.
By Ivan Watson and Saad Abedine, CNN
Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) - Turkey was shelling Syrian military sites near its border early Thursday, according to the opposition, even as the Turkish parliament was to convene an emergency session to consider granting authority to preemptively strike its neighbor.
The opposition claims follows news Wednesday that Turkey fired on Syrian government targets in response to the shelling of a Turkish border town.FULL STORY
By Chris Lawrence
Turkey fired on targets in Syria in response to the shelling of a Turkish border town in which five civilians were killed Wednesday, a statement from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said.
A senior defense official says the Pentagon is watching the cross-border attacks between Syria and Turkey with some degree of concern, “but at this point, there’s nothing to suggest it’s going to become a broader conflict.”
The official says Pentagon officials have been closely watching what’s happening between the two nations, but at this point have not initiated any further military-to-military contact with their Turkish allies in response to this issue.
The official says this doesn’t look to be large-scale aerial bombardment, but rather a smaller-scale border skirmish.
“We think this is Turkey basically saying ‘Don’t mess with us. Whatever is going on inside Syria, don’t mess with us,” the official said.
The official says both nations would have an interest in not allowing the conflict to escalate.
By Ivan Watson
ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday the United States would start to develop contingency plans with its Turkish allies in the event that the embattled Syrian regime collapses.
Her announcement in Istanbul came 17 months into an escalating crisis that has claimed more than 17,000 lives and forced an estimated 150,000 refugees to flee into neighboring nations, including Turkey, which is hosting 50,000 people.
"There is a very clear understanding about the need to end this conflict quickly, but not doing it in a way that produces even more deaths, injuries and destruction," Clinton said after talks with her Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The most senior Syrian diplomat to defect and publicly embrace his country's uprising is calling for a foreign military intervention to topple president Bashar al-Assad.
Nawaf al Fares spokes to CNN's Ivan Watson in Doha, Qatar. Fares also accused the Damascus regime of collaborating with al Qaeda militants against opponents both in Syria and in neighboring Iraq.
Here's a transcript of the interview: FULL POST
By CNN's Ivan Watson in Istanbul
Iran and six world powers held "constructive and useful" talks Saturday in Turkey as international diplomats seek to persuade Tehran to rein in its nuclear program.
"We have agreed that the nonproliferation treaty forms a key basis for what must be serious engagement to ensure all the obligations under the treaty are met by Iran while fully respecting Iran's right for the peaceful use of nuclear energy," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said following the meeting with Iran's top negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in Istanbul.
Jalili had said ahead of the talks that he intended to bring "new initiatives" to the table.
Ashton said Saturday's meeting was a basis to establish a "sustained process of serious dialogue."
Syrian volunteers are trying to clear landmines that Turkish authorities say the Syrian army began planting along stretches of the border earlier this winter, report Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert who went to see the effort in Altinozu, Turkey.
Amid the olive groves of Turkey just a stone's throw away from the Syrian border, one volunteer has hidden away several Styrofoam boxes.
Their contents are deadly: a dozen unexploded antipersonnel mines. FULL POST
By Ivan Watson reporting from Istanbul, Turkey
The bloody internal struggle over the future of Syria is increasingly taking on a wider, regional dimension that could be seen as a proxy war times two.
At one level, it is a showdown of the old Cold War dimension, pitting the United States and other Western countries against Russia and China. But there is a second proxy battle going on, as throughout the Middle East battle-lines are being drawn between governments that support and those that oppose the al-Assad, regime based mostly on allegiance to Shiite and Sunni heritage.
Turkey - Syria's most powerful neighbor - accuses Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of massacring his own citizens. The Turkish prime minister threatened new pressure tactics in an address to Parliament.
"We will start a new initiative at this point with those countries that will be on the side of the Syrian people, and not with the Syrian regime," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Parliament. FULL POST