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Iranian Foreign Minister visits Turkey

The Foreign Ministers of Turkey and Iran met in Ankara yesterday to explore ways to expand trade and avoid US sanctions.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu expressed Turkey’s opposition to US sanctions and said Ankara and Iran need to keep working to raise their bilateral trade to a target of $30bn, around triple the current level.

He said: “Along with the existing mechanisms, we evaluated how we can establish new mechanisms, like INSTEX [The Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges] … how we can remove the obstacles before us.” INSTEX is a system set up by European countries to avoid US sanctions reimposed on exports of Iranian oil last year. US sanctions were previously eased under the Iran nuclear deal, which the US left in May 2018.

Çavuşoğlu added: “We will continue telling the US that the embargoes [on Iran] are wrong and unrealistic.” In October 2017, the Turkish and Iranian central banks formally agreed to trade in their local currencies after using the euro for settlements in the past.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said the US wants to control relations with other countries, and hinted that Turkey must not be influenced by US pressure: “We will not allow the US to question our business with other countries.”

Turkey currently benefits from a US sanctions waiver. Waivers were granted to eight countries which buy oil from Iran, allowing them to continue their purchases of Iranian oil without incurring sanctions for six more months. On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Washington that Turkey expected the US to extend the waiver.

Zarif is in Turkey after visiting Syria yesterday where he met with President Bashar Assad. Zarif’s visits to Damascus and Ankara are in preparation for fresh talks next week in Kazakhstan to end Syria’s eight-year civil war.