Turkey will not cut off trade ties with Iran at the behest of other countries, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday in an interview with broadcaster NTV.
Çavuşoğlu made the comment after the United States told countries this week to cut all Iranian oil imports by November.
"If the United States' decisions are aimed at peace and stability, then we'll support them, but we don't have to follow every decision. Being allies doesn't mean following every decision word for word," the foreign minister said. "Iran is a good neighbor and we have economic ties. We are not going to cut off our trade ties with Iran because other countries told us so."
Last year, President Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was looking to raise the volume of its annual trade with Iran to $30 billion, from $10 billion.
A U.S. State Department official said late Thursday the United States is prepared to work with countries on a case by case basis to help them reduce imports of Iranian oil as Washington prepares to reimpose sanctions against Tehran in November, suggesting the Trump administration could offer waivers.
Meanwhile, Iran remained Turkey's biggest crude oil exporter in the first quarter of 2018 despite a 20 percent decrease, according to Turkey's Energy Market Regulatory Authority's (EMRA) data.
Iran's crude oil exports to Turkey fell to 2.1 million tons in the first quarter of 2018, a 20 percent decline compared to the same period last year, the data said.
Turkey's total oil imports, including crude and diesel imports, decreased by 10.6 percent to 8.4 million tons in the January-March 2018 period, from 9.4 million tons during the same period of 2017. Turkish crude oil imports have decreased by 33.5 percent to 4.1 million tons in the first quarter of 2018. This figure is down from 6.2 million tons in the first quarter of last year.
Despite the drop in imports, Iran retained its share in the Turkish market.
The share of Iranian crude oil in Turkey's crude imports increased to 50.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018 from 42.2 percent over the same quarter in 2017. In 2017, Turkey imported 42.6 million tons of oil and oil products including, crude oil, diesel, fuel oil, aviation fuel and marine fuels from several countries; Iran, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Turkey's sole oil product import from Iran was crude oil in 2017 with 11.5 million tons, representing 44.6 percent of total crude oil imports and 27 percent of overall oil product imports.
Crude oil and diesel imports held the biggest share of Turkey's total oil imports in 2017 at 25.8 million tons and 13.5 million tons, respectively.
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said last month that Turkey will continue trade with Iran while complying with U.N. resolutions.
Turkey had "more extensive" economic ties with Iran, including energy imports from Tehran, the minister added. Zeybekci emphasized that Turkey's position was clear on Iran, which was a "friendly and brother" country for Ankara. "We believe in this: The stronger Iran gets in this region, the stronger Turkey becomes as well, and the stronger Turkey becomes, the stronger Iran gets as well," he said.
The United States urged its allies and companies to stop buying crude oil from Iran by Nov. 4 or they will face sanctions, a U.S. State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.
The official indicated that there would be no additional phase-out period after the sanctions kick in at the end of the 180 days from when President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May.
Also, there will likely be no waivers. The U.S. Treasury Department said that same day that U.S. sanctions on Iran would take effect in 90-day and 180-day periods - after Aug. 6 and Nov. 4.
The official also said the U.S. is holding talks with Turkey, China and India, which all import oil from Iran. To skirt sanctions countries can try to do deals that avoid using U.S. dollars.
The U.S. is pursuing what it describes as a maximum pressure campaign against Iran.
U.S. allies in Europe are, however, upset Washington withdrew from the deal, negotiated under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, saying it was achieving its goal of preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The move will likely add pressure to rising oil prices, even as U.S. ally Saudi Arabia - a regional rival of Iran - indicated it will increase output. Russia has also signaled it plans to raise production levels. Iran's crude production was around 3.8 million barrels per day in May, according to OPEC's Oil Market Report for May. The country exports more than two million barrels of oil.
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