|Turkey retains level of crude imports from Iran: Minister||
Turkey says it has retained the level of crude oil imports from Iran and that the United States should exempt Turkey from new sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“Whatever the current process is for purchasing crude oil from Iran, we are continuing that in the same way," Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said in Ankara.
In June, Washington exempted Turkey and six other countries from its sanctions against Iran's oil sector for six months in return for a 20 percent cut in Ankara's purchases of Iranian crude oil.
Last week, the U.S. Senate approved further bans on trade with Iran's energy and shipping sectors. Under the new package, which has not yet passed into law, exemptions stand for countries that have made significant cuts to their imports of Iranian crude oil.
"There is no new demand from the U.S. to reduce the amount of crude oil which we get from Iran," Yildiz told reporters.
Official figures show Turkey's crude oil imports from Iran dropped by more than 30 percent in October compared with September, pushing Iran to the third place among Turkey’s oil suppliers, behind Russia and Iraq. In natural gas, however, Iran ranks second after Russia.
"Iran is Turkey's second biggest natural gas supplier," Yildiz said, adding, "I think that U.S. sanctions especially those covering natural gas will not bind Turkey."
The minister said Turkey had asked the U.S. not to impose sanctions on its natural gas purchases from Iran, a request to which Washington agreed.
"We said to them, if you tell us not to buy gas from Iran, that would be a sanction on Turkey and not on Iran. They agreed not to include natural gas agreements in the sanctions," he explained.
Iran has been targeted by a ring of sanctions from the U.S. and its European allies, who cite unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran's civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
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