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Turkey-US Start Talks On Sanctions Against Iran

Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea points to satellite images provided by U.S. intelligence of ships purported to travel between Russia and China with illicit exports of North Korean coal in violation of sanctions, w

Washington will be more “aggressive” in implementing measures against Iran, a United States official revealed on July 20.

Speaking to journalists in Ankara after meetings with Turkish authorities, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea said, “We talked about the details of the [U.S.] sanctions [imposed on Tehran]. What we explored with the government of Turkey are potential implications for Turkish companies and Turkish economy for different measures. We agreed today that, as allies, this is something that we have to continue to study and continue to exchange details on.”

On July 19 U.S. official held meetings with Turkish companies the next day, July 20 they meet with officials from the Foreign Ministry, Treasury, and Central Bank.

As many Turkish companies are prime trade partners with Tehran, Washington and Ankara are seeking to avoid any misunderstandings before the main batch of U.S. sanctions against Iran is implemented in November.

After the talks, the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said in a statement, “Turkish authorities are carrying out the necessary work for Turkey not to be negatively impacted by the upcoming sanctions and holding consultations with our American counterparts.”

Furthermore, the statement said, “Iran is an important neighbor for Turkey, in view of both our bilateral economic and commercial relations as well as our energy imports. Therefore, we will continue to monitor U.S. sanctions within this framework.”

According to AP, both parties described the talks as “positive."

Referring to Iran as the “world’s worst sponsor of terrorism," Billingslea noted, “This was the first series of the conversations about sanctions, and there will be many more to come.”

While insisting that it was too early to talk of exemptions for Turkey, the U.S. official said, “We are very sensitive about the possible effects [of the sanctions] on the Turkish economy. That’s why we are discussing the very, very specific matters of concerns for both countries. At this stage, we are not at a position to suggest that we are issuing waivers or exemptions. It would be premature to discuss that. Rather, we have to understand the content, the specifics of all these different business transactions so we can make assessments in Washington and make the best recommendations as possible.”

The first batch of U.S. re-imposed sanctions is scheduled to be implemented at the beginning of August, followed by the second batch, including sanctions on oil trade and the Central Bank of Iran, which will be implemented in November.

“We need Turkish companies and Turkish banks to recognize that the reason we gave a full 180 days before the implementation of those sanctions was to allow those companies enough time to wind their business [with Iran] down,” Billingslea said, adding that it is up to the U.S. State Department to declare whether the U.S. sanctions will be zero imports of subject goods or a significant reduction.

However, Billingslea added, “If the Turkish companies want to continue to do business with the Iranians in those prescribed areas, then they have to understand that they will not do business in the U.S. market or in the U.S. financial system."

According to Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, when asked how the U.S. will enforce the sanctions against Iran to be more successful than the previous experience, in which countries such as Turkey conducted trade in gold, the U.S. official said, “The treasury sanctions will be enforced very, very aggressively and very comprehensively, even more.”

“So, you should expect that we will be much more active than the past. I think the Turkish government understands our position on that. In terms of efforts to avoid sanctions, we will certainly encourage that efforts not be made. We certainly would be very, very concerned about trying to trade with Iran in gold. That is something that will become sanction in the beginning of August,” Hurriyet cited the U.S. official as saying.

“But it would certainly be a very bad idea to think that when somebody is going to trade with Iran in gold and avoid U.S. actions if that occurs,” he continued.

Billingslea’s visit coincided with a significant drop in the volume of Iranian oil exported to Turkey.

A Reuters report on July 20 cited an analyst you said that Tupras, Turkey’s biggest oil importer, cut back purchases of Iranian crude oil since May, when the United States said it would re-impose sanctions on Tehran.

According to Reuters, "NATO member Turkey depends heavily on imports to meet its energy needs and neighboring Iran has been one of its main sources of oil because of its proximity, crude quality, and favorable price differentials, traders say."