Turkish ports stop receiving Iranian oil to comply with U.S. sanctions – AW

In line with plans to reduce oil imports from Iran in recent months, Turkey has stopped receiving tankers holding Iranian oil as the country reluctantly complies with U.S. sanctions targeting Iranian oil exports, wrote analyst Sabahat Khan for the Arab Weekly.

The move follows Washington’s decision to refuse to grant Turkey, along with seven other countries, a new sanctions waiver for Iranian oil after U.S. President Donald Trump last year withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions on Tehran. 

While Ankara has been the most vocal of Iran’s oil customers in criticising Washington’s aim to restrict Iran’s oil income, Turkey was unwilling to take on the economic risks that continued oil trade with Tehran could bring, the article said.

Turkey is already at odds with the United States over its role in the conflict in Syria, Khan stressed, and these disagreements have become accentuated as Ankara reset ties with Moscow and engages with Tehran to reshape its Syria policy.

Ankara’s planned-purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system has led Washington to threaten to block deliveries of F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft to Turkey.

Washington opposes the S-400 deal since the Russian system is not compatible with Western-made NATO systems. It also fears that if the Turkish military operated both the F-35s and S-400s, Russia would attain access to sensitive information about the advanced fighter jets. 

Turkey has also been battling a growing economic crisis at home as its credit-fuelled growth falters. The past year has seen the Turkish lira lose nearly half its value against the U.S. dollar and Turkey’s current account deficit spiral to $27 billion.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s economy is another battleground at home, the article said, noting that the lira lost nearly half its value against the U.S. dollar over the past year and Turkey’s current account deficit spiralled to $27 billion.

All this while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered its greatest upset in its 17 years in power during recent local polls.

Ankara has now been forced to choose, it said, between incurring higher costs or continuing to buy Iranian oil, which comprises half of Turkey’s imports, and risk facing U.S. sanctions, which would be more costly and difficult to manage.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in April said Turkey is looking for ways to avoid U.S. sanctions and continue trading with Iran, however, Ankara began reducing oil imports from Iran in recent months and by March Turkey’s oil imports from Iran had fallen substantially and accounted for 12 percent of its total imports, Khan said. 

Iraq, Russia and Kazakhstan are Turkey’s current largest oil suppliers, respectively, the article underlined.

The country is likely to remain on engineering an economic recovery at home rather than on investing heavily into trade development with Iran, it concluded.