By Asli Kandemir
and Evrim Ergin
Thursday, February 7, 2013
ISTANBUL -- Turkey will not be swayed by U.S. sanctions pressure to
halt gold exports to Iran but Tehran's demand for the metal may fall this
year, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan
U.S. officials are concerned that Turkey's gold sales, which allow
Iran to export natural gas, provides a financial lifeline to Tehran, which is
largely frozen out of the global banking system by Western sanctions imposed
over its nuclear programme.
Trade in Turkish gold bars to Iran via Dubai is drying up as banks and
dealers increasingly refuse to buy the bullion to avoid sanctions risks
associated with the trade.
Turkey has a six-month U.S. waiver exempting it from financial
sanctions against Iran, which is due to expire in July.
"We will continue to make our gold exports this year to whoever seeks
them. We have no restrictions and are not bound by restrictions imposed by
others," the Turkish minister told reporters.
"There may be a decline in demand for gold exports. This is
nothing to do with sanctions. We are not subject to these sanctions until
July anyway, but there may be a decline in demand from Iran," he said.
Caglayan declined to
say why he anticipated Iranian demand might fall.
Turkey, Iran's biggest natural gas customer, has been paying the
Islamic Republic for oil and gas imports with Turkish liras because sanctions
prevent it from paying in dollars or euros.
Iranians then buy gold in Turkey, and couriers carry bullion worth
millions of dollars in hand luggage to Dubai, where it can be sold for
foreign currency or shipped to Iran.
Caglayan, who has
repeatedly said that Turkey's gold trade with Iran is carried out by private
firms and is not subject to U.S. sanctions, said other firms, including U.S.
and European companies, were continuing their exports to Tehran.
Read more here