“Iranian oil isn’t cheap but there is a big difference” with the price of Saudi and the UAE crude, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a reception in Ankara, according to state-run TRT television.
“The US is taking a decision and wants all countries to comply with it. Why should we pay the price?”
The Trump administration is ending waivers that allowed a handful of countries including Turkey to continue importing oil from sanctioned Iran a year after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he’s confident the market will remain stable as Saudi Arabia and the UAE will ensure an “appropriate supply” of oil along with the US.
Turkey is resisting the idea of buying oil from America’s two anti-Iran allies, whose relations with Ankara are fraught after the murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last October.
Turkey has also long opposed the US curbs on Iran, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying last year that “such sanctions are aimed at tipping the balance in the world” and violate international law and diplomacy.
Iran and Turkey plan to set up a financial mechanism to circumvent US sanctions on Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said after visiting Ankara last week.
Turkey has long defended trade with its eastern neighbor as a strategic necessity.
China, India and Turkey aren’t necessarily committed to bringing imports of Iranian crude down to zero and the US will have to negotiate “over the terms of their withdrawal from Iran or be prepared to deal with their noncompliance,” according to a report by Richard Nephew published by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
In January, Iran accounted for over 12 percent of Turkey’s oil imports, according to the latest available official data.
Iraq was the top supplier with almost 24 percent, followed by Russia with 15 percent. Saudi Arabia ranked eighth with 4.3 percent. Turkey imported only diesel fuel from the UAE in January.
Meanwhile, Iraqi oil pipelines running to Turkey have been badly damaged, limiting the volume of exports, Cavusoglu said. While that’s limiting Turkey’s options, it remains wary of turning to supplies from the Persian Gulf.
“Our refineries aren’t compatible with oil purchased from there,” Cavusoglu said, referring to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “Their technology must be upgraded. And for that, they should be shut down for a while. On the other hand, it is costly.”