Turkish and U.S. diplomats convened on Friday and held a meeting to discuss the upcoming sanctions to be imposed on Iran. The situation has the potential to put a serious strain on U.S.-Turkey relations, given Turkey’s economic ties to the Islamic Republic. Officials from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Ministry of Treasury and Finance met with United States Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, Marshall Billingslea. The talks reportedly went extremely well and Billingslea claimed the talks were “positive” with “no hostility” felt by either party. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that they were monitoring the situation with a great deal of scrutiny in regards to the sanctions. It was made clear that ultimately their goal was to ensure the nation wasn’t “negatively impacted by the upcoming sanctions.”
The United States began its withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May of this year while simultaneously announcing the re-implementation of economic sanctions. The sanctions will specifically aim to cripple Iran’s oil exportation and banking capabilities. Presently, around half of Turkey’s oil importation comes from Iran, the two nations share a border and that has made trade between them something of a priority. Prior to all this, Turkey had insinuated it intended to disregard the U.S.’s warnings to stop trade with the Islamic Republic over “unilateral” decisions.
The United States’s Treasury officials said that some localized nations may receive exemptions from the sanctions should they affect countries that rely heavily on or need extended time frames to cut relations with Iran in regards to oil import/export. Assistant Secretary Billingslea has neglected to confirm if Turkey will be eligible for such an exemption, stating that, “At this point, I’m not in a position to suggest that we are issuing waivers or exemptions.” He added that the United States held the implementation of the sanctions “actively” as a top priority.
Billingslea went on to say that,
This time around, the treasury sanctions will be enforced very, very aggressively and very comprehensibly. I think the Turkish government understands our position on that. We certainly would be very, very concerned about trying to trade with Iran in gold,” adding that the United States was investigating and tracking “large purchases of gold in Turkey.” He concluded with, “Iran may be a neighbor of Turkey but they are not a friend or an ally.”