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Turkiye dismisses concerns over US sanctions warning

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ISTANBUL: Turkiye’s fin­a­nce minister on Friday dismissed as “meaningless” con­cerns among Turkish businesses over a US Trea­sury warning that they risked being penalised if they maintained commercial ties with Russians under sanctions.

Nato-member Turkiye has sought to strike a balance between Moscow and Kyiv by criticising Russia’s invasion and sending arms to Ukraine, while opposing the Western sanctions and continuing trade, tourism and investment with Russia.

Finance Minister Nure­ddin Nebati said Turkiye was determined to improve economic and trade relations with its neighbours “within a framework that is not subject to sanctions”.

Some Turkish firms have purchased or sought to buy Russian assets from Western partners pulling back, while others maintain major assets in Russia. Ankara has said Western sanctions will not be circumvented in Turkiye.

The US Treasury warned both the country’s largest business group TUSIAD and Nebati’s ministry this month that Russian entities were attempting to use Turkiye to bypass Western sanctions.

“It is meaningless for a letter relayed to Turkish business groups to create concern in our business circles,” Nebati said in a tweet. “We are pleased to see that the United States, our ally and trade partner, is inviting its businesses to invest in our economy.”

All players in Turkey’s economy are tied to free market principles and are working to obtain a bigger share of global trade, and the government is “beside its business world on this path,” he said.

Tim Ash, a strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said Nebati’s response risked annoying Washington, making secondary sanctions on Turkiye more likely.

“It reads like telling the Yanks, the Turkish state is strong… enough to withstand any actions you might take against us,” Ash wrote on Twitter.

Turkey, which has Black Sea borders with both Russia and Ukraine, has said joining sanctions against Russia would have hurt its already strained economy and argued that it is focused on mediation efforts.

One benefit for Turkey has been a jump in foreign arrivals, thanks largely to Russian visitors with few other options due to Western flight restrictions.

The head of a metal exporters group said this month that Russian demand for Turkish products had increased, and that Turkish companies had received enquiries from European businesses about supplying Russia via Turkiye.

Security concerns

Officials from Turkiye, Finland and Sweden agreed on Friday to keep meeting in the coming months to discuss security concerns that Turkey raised as a precondition for allowing the two Nordic countries to join the Nato military alliance.

Officials from the three countries held their first such meeting on Friday in Vantaa.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2022

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