Jul 02 2018

“No waivers or licences” for Turkey to buy Iranian oil – U.S. State Dept

The United States will not offer “waivers of licences” to any country or business looking to do business with Iran after the reintroduction of sanctions on Aug. 4, U.S. Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook told journalists at a press briefing on Monday.

Hook’s statement came in response to a question on whether measures would be taken against countries such as Turkey that refuse to participate in the sanctions regime.

The United States is set to reimpose sanctions after President Donald Trump announced the country’s withdrawal from the deal signed during his predecessor Barack Obama’s time in office, which granted Iran access to overseas funds and allowed the country to sell its oil on international markets in exchange for scaling down its nuclear programme.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has since laid out a roadmap for a new deal, complete with twelve demands that must be met “for Iran to become a normal country,” said Hook.

The demands include the immediate closure of nuclear facilities, release of U.S. citizens held prisoner, and halting funding to groups outlawed by the United States including the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

Delegations of high-level U.S. officials have been visiting countries around the world to drum up support for the new policy, which is viewed by many in the European Union, a participant in Obama’s Iran deal, as unnecessary and counterproductive.

“We have been clear with countries and companies around the world that we are bringing severe economic pressure on Iran until it changes its destabilising policies,” said Hook.

Turkish economy minister Nihat Zeybekçi flatly refused to participate in the new round of sanctions last Wednesday, saying the U.S. decision “did not bind” Turkey. “We will act appropriately for Turkey’s benefit,” said Zeybekçi.

 “We are not looking to grant licences or waivers because doing so would substantially reduce pressure on Iran, and this is a campaign of imposing pressure … We believe pressure is critical to achieve our national security objectives,” said Hook in response to a journalist’s question on whether countries or companies which refuse to impose sanctions would face consequences.

“We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case by case basis,” he added.

Relations between the two NATO allies have been at a particularly low point over recent months due to several significant disagreements. One of these relates to the Turkish state-owned HalkBank, which was found by a U.S. court to have facilitated a scheme breaking sanctions on Iran before Obama’s deal was signed, allegedly with the aid of high officials from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Observers expect HalkBank will be hit with a substantial fine after the defendant in the trial, HalkBank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was found guilty in January.