Turkey's purchases of Iranian crude oil fell to zero in November, according to a source familiar with the matter, reflecting a decline in deals inked in the weeks leading up to renewed U.S. sanctions on Tehran.
Turkey has since been granted a waiver from Washington allowing it to temporarily continue buying Iranian oil despite the sanctions.
Oil arriving in Turkey from Iran is typically booked two or more weeks in advance because of the time it takes a shipment to cover the distance between the two countries by sea, Reuters reported.
A trading source said that Turkey's biggest oil importer, TÜPRAŞ has also had scheduled maintenance from mid-October to mid-November at its İzmit refinery, one of four of the company's refineries, a move that could have reduced its overall demand for crude oil during the period.
In May, U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew his country from the 2015 landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations - the five permanent U.N. Security Council members U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany. He also announced that he would reinstate sanctions against Tehran, which were lifted by the agreement in exchange for tight restrictions on the country's nuclear program.
The measures that came into effect in early November restored all the sanctions that had been lifted under the accord that gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
The U.S. simultaneously announced it would grant temporary exemptions to eight countries - including Turkey - allowing them to continue importing some Iranian oil.
Turkey did not know in advance whether its request for a waiver would be granted, which may account for the decline in November purchases.
NATO member Turkey depends heavily upon imports to meet its energy needs and neighboring Iran has been one of its main sources of oil because of its proximity, the quality of its crude and favorable price differentials.
Turkey is one of the key destinations for Iranian crude, accounting for more than a quarter of Turkey's daily average imports of around 830,000 barrels, according to data from the market regulator. While Turkey imported 930,978 tons of crude oil from Iran in May, the figure fell to 287,842 tons in June, according to the monthly petroleum industry report by the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA). In July and August, oil purchases from Iran totaled 867.3 million tons and 674.3 million tons, respectively.
In the first five months of the year, Turkey's crude imports from Iran made up more than 50 percent of its total oil imports, the EMRA data showed. Last year, Turkey imported 25.8 million tons of crude oil, and Iran ranked first among Turkey's oil suppliers with 11.5 million tons. The country also imports oil via pipelines from Iraq and Azerbaijan. However, geographical proximity and stable transport routes facilitate oil trade between Ankara and Tehran
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