Turkey and Brussels voiced their objection to the U.S. decision not to extend waivers for oil purchases from Iran and continue to impose unilateral sanctions, which are seen as destabilizing the entire region.
In a joint press conference with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign and Defense Minister Didier Reynders in Ankara yesterday, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reiterated Turkey's rejection of U.S. sanctions on the Iranian oil industry, emphasizing that Ankara objects to any sort of sanctions unilaterally imposed on any country and the policy of sanctions would not yield any effective results for stability.
Çavuşoğlu said the U.S. decision will affect all countries and noted, "Turkey supports an international system based on law." He emphasized that the imposition of a unilaterally taken decision on other country is in contravention of diplomatic decorum.
The U.S. administration said Monday that it will no longer exempt any countries from U.S. sanctions if they continue to buy Iranian oil, stepping up pressure on Iran in a move that primarily affects the five remaining major importers: China and India, and U.S. treaty allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey.
The waivers had been in place since November when the administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
They were granted in part to give those countries time to eliminate their purchases of Iranian oil but also to ease any impact on global energy markets with the abrupt removal of Iran's production. Since the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil, Turkey's purchases from its neighbor have fallen drastically.
In November, Turkey received a waiver called significant reduction exceptions (SREs) along with another seven nations including Italy, Greece, South Korea, Japan, China, India and Taiwan on the condition that they significantly reduce oil imports from Iran.
In November 2018, Turkey did not purchase oil from Iran, according to the data of the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA). In December, a total of 104,000 tons of oil entered the Turkish market from Iran while the figure was 432,441 tons in December 2017. In the first month of this year, Turkey imported 381,214 tons of oil from Iran, 34 percent down compared to the same period of last year.
From November 2017 to January 2018, Turkey's oil purchases from Iran totaled nearly 1.3 million tons and the figure fell to 485,214 in the period of November 2018 to January 2019, approximately 67 percent down.
Reynders, in the same vein as Çavuşoğlu, said Brussels supports the re-drafting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which was inked in 2015 and from which U.S. President Trump withdrew his country from in May 2018.
"A lot of companies have trouble doing business because of U.S. sanctions on Iran. European countries are working to dodge U.S. sanctions in order to continue to do business with Iran. Belgium also tries to find a way and we keep telling our American counterparts that the sanctions are not a correct way of policymaking," Reynders said.
The EU yesterday said it regretted the U.S. move to end sanction waivers on Iran oil imports. Speaking at a media briefing, Maja Kocijancic, the EU foreign affairs and security policy spokeswoman, said the EU will continue to implement the nuclear agreement.
Meanwhile, oil prices hit their highest since November yesterday after Washington announced the end of all waivers on imports of sanctions-hit Iranian crude, pressuring importers to stop buying from Tehran. Brent crude futures rose as high as $74.70, a level not seen since Nov. 1, before paring their increase as the market gained confidence that global supply would remain robust.
Turkey-Belgium Economic and Trade Commission
Çavuşoğlu also noted that the meetings for Turkey-Belgium Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO) must be held as soon as possible.
Pointing out that the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Belgium is increasing, the foreign minister said, "The investments continue to rise we are aware that we could do more. The current figures are below the potential."
Reynders also emphasized that Brussels is ready to hold JETCO meetings.
In addition to boosting bilateral trade and diversifying mutual investments, the two countries may also engage in partnership projects in third countries in Africa or Iraq, for example.
In 2018, Turkey's exports to Belgium were recorded at $3.9 billion and imports from the European country stood at $3.5 billion.
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