Apr 17 2019

Turkey expects U.S. sanctions waivers for S-400s, Iranian oil

Turkey expects the United States to grant it sanctions waivers for its purchases of Iranian oil and a Russian missile defence system, a top aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday.

Turkey seeks an extension to a waiver that allows it to import Iranian oil without U.S. penalties re-imposed in November after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The waiver is set to expire early next month.

“We are expecting an extension for Turkey,” presidential spokesman and senior adviser Ibrahim Kalın told reporters in Washington, according to Al Jazeera. “We have made it clear we would like to continue to buy Iranian oil. People should not expect Turkey to turn its back on Iran just like that.”

Kalın also said Turkey wants a waiver for sanctions expected to be triggered should it take delivery of Russia's advanced S-400 missile defence system over Washington's objections.

Turkey’s S-400 deal, signed with Moscow in December 2017, has in recent months become the most pressing of several disagreements between Ankara and Washington.

U.S. senators introduced a bill this month that if passed would require sanctions on Turkish officials involved in the deal and halt the transfer of new-generation F-35 stealth fighter jets to Turkey.

U.S. and NATO officials have repeatedly voiced concerns that the presence of a Russian defence system in a NATO-allied country could lead to data breaches allowing Russia to improve its air defences against the F-35 and other aircraft.

Turkish officials have been pressing Trump to use a presidential exemption to spare Turkey from sanctions.

"If it comes to it, of course, we would expect President Trump to use his waiver," Kalın said, estimating that delivery of the S-400 system would be completed within a few months.

In addition to the sanctions, U.S. officials have made clear that the S-400 purchase would jeopardise Turkey's participation in the U.S. F-35 fighter aircraft programme. Kalın expressed hope that the United States would agree to a Turkish proposal to set up a technical committee to review possible security threats posed by the S-400.

“Our proposal to establish this technical committee under the NATO umbrella is still on the table. We are waiting to hear from our U.S. colleagues and from NATO," Ibrahim Kalın told reporters, according to state-run Anadolu news. "Because we wouldn’t want to have our F-35 program jeopardised in any way by the S-400 or any other system."

Regarding Iranian oil, sources told Reuters that Washington was likely to renew waivers for at least three buyers, including Turkey. Kalın said Turkey would not want to violate sanctions if the waiver were not extended.

"We will look for alternatives in terms of transactions and other things. We don't want to break or violate the sanctions, but at the same time we don't want to be deprived of our right to buy oil and gas from Iran," he said.