Turkey is against severing economic ties with Iran as the United States readies for sanctions, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan argued yesterday. Speaking at a news conference in capital Ankara prior to his visit to Johannesburg where he will attend the BRICS Summit, President Erdoğan said it goes against the independence of states to cut ties with its "neighbor and strategic partner" because the U.S. demands it. Moreover, Turkey is not obliged to go along with the sanctions imposed by the U.S. or Britain against Iran, according to the Turkish foreign minister on Tuesday evening.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu made the remarks while visiting Azerbaijan's capital Baku at a joint news conference alongside Elmar Memmedyarov, his Azerbaijani counterpart.
Highlighting that Turkey opposes U.S. sanctions on Iran, Çavuşoğlu said: "We go along with U.N. sanctions like every country, but we do not necessarily need to go along with sanctions imposed by the U.S. or U.K. against Iran."
He added Turkey also does not agree with U.S. sanctions on Russia.
"We do not find those sanctions right. This is a principled stance. It does not depend on any other condition," he said.
U.S. officials met Turkish companies on July 19 and with Turkish officials of the Foreign Ministry, Treasury and Central Bank on July 20 about the issue regarding a new round of sanctions against Iran.
Many Turkish companies are prime trade partners with Tehran.
On May 8, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran reached by his predecessor Barack Obama and other world powers, the U.K., France, China, Russia and Germany, and ordered tough U.S. sanctions on Tehran. The decision has drawn criticism worldwide. Marshall Billingslea, the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, was in Turkey on Friday to partake in negotiations with Turkish authorities and hold meetings with Turkish companies who have been operating in Iran for years. As Billingslea put it, he was in Turkey "to educate Turkish companies" on behalf of the American administration. "We definitely are encouraging the companies to wind down their businesses. That's why we gave the 180 days. It is up to the individual companies to make their business decisions. We are not in a situation that we are trying to dictate Turkish companies on what to do," he had told Daily Sabah in an interview.
Following the talks on Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry released a written statement, saying: "Iran is an important neighbor for Turkey, in view of both our bilateral economic and commercial relations as well as our energy imports. Therefore, we will continue to monitor U.S. sanctions within this framework."
Turkey remains skeptical of the idea, as in the first four months of this year, Turkey bought more than three million tons of crude oil from Iran, almost 55 percent of its total crude supplies; Tehran remains Ankara's biggest crude oil exporter in the first quarter of 2018 despite a 20 percent decrease.