Jul 25 2018

Turkey won’t discriminate between “strategic partners” Iran and U.S. by placing sanctions, says Erdoğan

Turkey will not favour the interests of its strategic partner, the United States, if that means harming its own interests by complying with the coming sanctions regime on Iran, another strategic partner, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday.

“It goes against the understanding of independence among our countries if we have to cut out relations with other countries which, like the United States, are our strategic partners,” said Erdoğan, responding to a question on the U.S. sanctions during a press briefing at Esenboğa Airport in Ankara.

The issue of sanctions appears likely to be yet another point of contention between Turkey and long-term ally the United States, which has been laying the groundwork for a resumption of sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump’s May withdrawal from a nuclear agreement signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The United States sent a delegation to Turkey last Friday demanding compliance with the sanctions, which will restrict trade with Iran in its main export, oil, as well as other raw materials and banking activities.

However, Turkey is not prepared to give up trade with its neighbour and strategic partners that “heat the country,” said Erdoğan. “We told this to the United States during Obama’s rule and we are now in the same situation,” he added.

Around 16 percent of Turkey’s natural gas imports come from Iran, the second-largest gas importer to Turkey after Russia.

Crude oil imports from Iran have already been decreasing ahead of the date in November when sanctions are expected to take full effect, likely in order to avoid losing out to trade with U.S. businesses – the consequence, the U.S. delegation said last Friday, of continuing to trade with Iran.

Turkish leaders, however, have been unequivocal in their rejection of sanctions, with foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Tuesday rejecting any obligation for his country to comply with the sanctions.