Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vow to continue purchasing Iranian natural gas despite sanctions imposed by the United States will become another significant sticking point between Washington and Ankara, analysts told The Media Line.
Erdogan’s comments came in an interview with the Reuters news agency after US President Donald Trump asserted that countries could “face severe consequences” if they don’t comply with the American financial penalties.
A first batch of US sanctions on Iran were re-imposed in August, with another tranche targeting the Islamic Republic’s crucial energy and shipping sectors slated for implementation in November.
“We need to be realistic…. Am I supposed to let people freeze in winter?… Nobody should be offended. How can I heat my people’s homes if we stop purchasing Iran’s natural gas?,” Erdogan asked rhetorically.
Turkey relies almost entirely on external sources for gas and oil since it has almost no reserves of its own, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Purchasing Iranian products is relatively inexpensive for Turkey given the two nations share a border. As such, cutting off the Iranian spigot would force Ankara to look to other more distant governments to meet its fuel requirements.
“For that reason, it’s rational for Turkey to [continue buying Iranian gas],” Duke University Professor of Economics and Political Science Timur Kuran told The Media Line.
Kuran explained that Turkey wants to diversify its sources of energy to not be overly dependent on one country, irrespective of the potential fall-out with Washington.
“This issue is likely to be another source of conflict… it will not help repair relations that have been seriously frayed in recent years,” he nevertheless stressed.
Ankara’s vital role in the region means there are a number of reasons why the US is interested in maintaining good ties with its NATO ally, even if it does not comply with sanctions.