Turkey Bows to Pressure, Will Reduce Oil Imports from Iran

March 30, 2012  

Despite its earlier expression for support of Iran’s nuclear program, Turkey announced on Friday it was reducing oil imports from the Islamic Republic by 20 percent, The Associated Press reported.

By implementing the move Turkey may be bowing to pressure from the United States, which is leading an international effort to push Tehran to halt its nuclear program.

On Friday, according to AP, Turkey’s oil refiner Tupras confirmed that its purchases from Iran were being reduced by a fifth.

The announcement appears to be a shift for Turkey, which has so far said it is only bound to enforce United Nations sanctions, not those of the U.S. or European Union.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that Turkey imports about 30 percent of its oil from Iran and that to make up for the reduction in those imports, it will purchase crude from Libya and make spot purchases or sign long-term contracts with Saudi Arabia.

“We will buy around 1 million tons of crude oil from Libya within 2012. Therefore, oil purchases from Iran will be reduced by a certain amount,” Yildiz was quoted by AP as having said.

He claimed the deal with Libya was meant to diversify the country’s energy sources, rather than to comply with sanctions.

President Barack Obama’s administration has threatened to hit banks and other financial institutions of countries that have not reduced Iranian oil purchases with penalties. Under these sanctions, financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank would be barred from the U.S. market.

Countries that are deemed to be major importers of Iranian oil have until June 28 to make significant reductions or face sanctions from the U.S., AP noted.

Earlier this week the U.S. hit six Iranian firms and shipping executives with sanctions, for allegedly dealing in weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology.

The latest action by the Treasury Department freezes any assets that the companies and individuals have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from doing business with them.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, where he has met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, First Vice-President Mohammed Reza Rahimi and Majlis (Parliament) Speaker Ali Larijani.

During the visit with Ahmadinejad, Erdogan voiced his country’s unwavering support for Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

On Wednesday, Erdogan rejected outside pressure on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

“No one has the right to impose anything on anyone with regards to nuclear energy, provided that it is for peaceful purposes,” Erdogan said at a news conference after talks with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. “Everyone with commonsense opposes nuclear weapons,” he added.

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