Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he did not favor imposing economic sanctions to pressure Iran into showing that it has no covert nuclear weapons program.
Erdogan discussed different approaches with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to international efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions, but made clear Turkey's reluctance to back the use of sanctions.
"We are of the view that sanctions is not a healthy path and... that the best route is diplomacy," he said at a joint news conference with Merkel.
Turkey is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and Erdogan said it had not yet reached a firm decision on how it would vote on a US-backed sanctions resolution.
Merkel urged NATO ally Ankara to be ready to support the imposition of sanctions through the United Nations unless Iran shows transparency to assure the international community that it has no ambitions for nuclear weapons.
"We would happy if Turkey votes in April on the Iran issue together with the United States and the European Union," she said.
Turkey, frustrated by the slow progress of its EU membership negotiations, doubts the effectiveness of sanctions and its trade would inevitably suffer if sanctions were imposed on its fellow Muslim neighbor.
"Turkey shares a 380 km (240 mile) border with Iran and it is an important partner, especially in energy. When appraising our relations we shouldn't ignore this," Erdogan said.
He also raised doubts about the results of three earlier rounds of milder sanctions against Iran.
In an apparently veiled reference to Israel, the Turkish leader referred to another country in the region that possessed nuclear weapons. The Jewish state is widely assumed to have the bomb but has not declared itself a nuclear-weapons state.
"We are against nuclear weapons in our region. But is there another country in our region that has nuclear weapons? Yes, there is. And have they been subjected to sanctions? No," Erdogan said.
Turkey is worried about the potential for a nuclear arms race in the region between Iran and Israel, though it does not feel directly threatened by either country.
"If the world trusts us, we would fine a middle path with Iran. I hope that we will reach a result if we continue to work," Erdogan said.
Despite good relations with Tehran, Erdogan's own attempts to persuade the Iranian leadership to make moves needed to allay international concerns have so far come to naught.