Turkey not keen to buy more oil from Saudi, UAE

  • Business
  • Thursday, 25 Apr 2019

ANKARA: Turkey is loath to buy more oil from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the US looks to squeeze exports from Iran, currently the third largest supplier of crude to the Middle East’s biggest economy.

“Iranian oil isn’t cheap but there is a big difference” with the price of Saudi and 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.

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-Iranian allies, whose relations with Ankara are fraught with tension 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.

The blowback from American sanctions against Iran could also hit Turkey’s economy, which entered its first recession in a decade last year as oil prices surged.

The prospect of higher prices or the risk of a confrontation with the US don’t bode well for Turkey’s currency, already battered by weeks of upheaval.

“Turkey could very soon find itself in a difficult position at the time when inflation remains stubbornly high close to 20%,” said Piotr Matys, a London-based analyst at Rabobank. “Iranian oil could be the source of another diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington, when the relationship is already tense due to Turkey’s insistence on buying a Russian missile-defense system.”

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 just over 12% of Turkey’s oil imports, according to the latest available official data.

Iraq was the top supplier with almost 24%, followed by Russia with 15%.

Saudi Arabia ranked 8th with 4.3%. Turkey only imported 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 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 awhile.

“On the other hand, it is costly.” — Bloomberg


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