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Despite rhetoric, Turkey complies with US oil sanctions on Iran

Despite rhetoric, Turkey complies with US oil sanctions on Iran

2019/05/21 | 17:55

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)-

Turkey has closed its

ports to Iranian oil, fully complying with US sanctions against its main

supplier, despite Ankara publicly criticizing the United States' move to end

import waivers and warning of a struggle to tap alternative producers.The US decision to

fully re-impose sanctions on Iranian oil ended a six-month reprieve for Turkey

and seven other big importers as Washington steps up attempts to isolate Iran

and choke off its oil revenues.An American military

presence in the region has also raised concerns over a potential US-Iran

conflict.Full compliance allows

Turkey to avoid US sanctions even as its ties with the NATO ally are strained

on several other fronts, including over the planned purchase of a Russian

missile defence system that would trigger separate US penalties.Turkey's largest oil

refiner Tupras had pressed Washington for an extension of the import waiver

before the May 1 expiration, according to a person familiar with the talks,

adding that when it was not granted the company made it clear it would halt all

imports from Iran.Tupras did not

immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.According to Refinitiv

tracking data, no tankers loaded in Iran have arrived at Turkish ports so far

in this month.Four days after the

waiver ended, a tanker carrying 130,000 tonnes of Iranian crude was midway

across the Mediterranean Sea to Turkey when it changed course and turned off

its tracker, Refinitiv oil analyst Ehsan ul-Haq said. Analysts, citing

satellite imagery, said it likely unloaded instead at the Syrian port of Banias.The data shows that

Turkey began trimming its Iranian imports as early as march. Analysts said it

has replaced the oil from its neighbor with oil from Iraq, Russia and

Kazakhstan.Last week, Reuters

reported that Iranian crude oil exports have fallen to 500,000 barrels per day

(bpd) or lower this month, with the bulk heading to Asia, according to tanker

data and industry sources.Turkish President

Tayyip Erdogan has previously slammed the sanctions, saying they are

destabilising for the region. In Washington last month, his spokesman said the

country didn't want to be deprived of its right to buy oil and gas from Iran.A day after the

waivers for China, India, Japan and other big importers were withdrawn,

Turkey's foreign minister said it did not seem possible for his country to

diversify its suppliers in such a short period of time.Yet Tupras, which

consumes almost all of Turkey's oil imports, used its play book from 2012-2013,

when earlier US sanctions on Iran forced it to ramp up supplies from Iraq and

Russia, said an oil industry executive who requested anonymity."It is the same

story...This time they are importing more Kazakh oil though," said the

executive, adding that Kazakh import volumes hit a 20-year high in February.Turkey, the largest

economy in the Middle East, is almost completely reliant on imports for its

energy needs.Prior to May 2018,

when the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord, Turkey imported an average

of 912,000 tonnes of oil a month from Iran, or 47% of its total imports.In the four months

since November 2018, when the US imposed sanctions and granted the limited

waivers, Turkey imported an average of 209,000 tonnes of Iranian oil, or 12% of

its total imports, according to Reuters calculations based on regulatory data.The latest report from

Turkey's energy watchdog shows Iran supplied 15% of its oil consumption in

February, with Iraq accounting for 23%, Russia 20% and Kazakhstan 16%.Iraq's oil minister

Thamir Ghadhban said last week that Turkey had requested more oil.









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