Turkey not obliged to abide by sanctions imposed by US or UK against Iran, FM says

Published 24.07.2018 17:56
Updated 25.07.2018 13:50
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu talks at a press conference during a visit in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in the city of Lefkoşa, July 24, 2018. (REUTERS Photo)
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu talks at a press conference during a visit in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in the city of Lefkoşa, July 24, 2018. (REUTERS Photo)

Turkey opposes sanctions on Iran and is not obliged to abide by sanctions imposed by the U.S., the U.K. or any other country, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran and ordered U.S. sanctions on Tehran, while a senior State Department official said Washington has told allies to cut imports of Iranian oil by November.

Turkey has criticized Trump's move to withdraw from the nuclear pact and has publicly resisted the U.S. call to cut oil imports from Iran.

"We do not have to adhere to the sanctions imposed on a country by another country. We don't find the sanctions right either," Çavuşoğlu said while visiting Azerbaijan's capital Baku at a joint news conference alongside Elmar Memmedyarov, his Azerbaijani counterpart.

"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."

"We held meetings with the United States in Ankara and told them openly: Turkey gets oil and gas from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Iraq. If I don't buy from Iran now, where am I supposed to meet that need from?" 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. Marshall Billingslea, the Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, was among the officials in Turkey to partake in negotiations and hold meetings with Turkish authorities and companies.

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.

Many Turkish companies are prime trade partners with Tehran.

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.

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.

Turkey's overall trade with Iran has been decreasing since 2013 following the sanctions. While bilateral trade between the countries exceeded $20 billion in 2012, it saw a dramatic fall to $14 billion. Recorded at $9 billion in 2016, bilateral trade with Iran gained momentum in 2017 and rose to $10.7 billion.

Turkey and Iran have also discussed trading in local currencies as an alternative medium of exchange to dollar and issued the first letter of credit in the form of a national currency swap to exchange Iranian rial and Turkish lira in April.

Turkey also does not agree with the U.S. sanctions on Russia, the minister also added.

"We do not find those sanctions right. This is a principal stance. It does not depend on any other condition," he said.

F-35 jet deal

About the U.S. Senate's decision to block the delivery of F-35 jet fighters to Turkey, Çavuşoğlu said: "The administration holds the authorization rights regarding this deal. There are no setbacks about the purchase of F-35 jets. Two of the jets have already been received and training [of Turkish pilots] continue."

American senators voted overwhelmingly to block the delivery of F-35 jet fighters to Turkey on Monday.

"The United States and any other country should understand this. You cannot get any results from Turkey by imposing sanctions or insisting. Dialogue, diplomacy and respect help in getting results from Turkey," he added.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday evening dismissed reports about the U.S. Senate and Congress aiming to prohibit the transfer of advanced F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.

In reply to questions after his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's parliamentary group meeting in Ankara, Erdoğan said: "You know the matter, it is completely at the disposal of the U.S. president once the bill passes. Mr. Trump has shown me the written statement he made during our discussion in Brussels and such a thing [prohibiting the transfer] is not in question."

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