News / Europe

    Iran's Foreign Minister to Make Key Turkish Visit

    FILE - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a working luncheon in Kuwait.
    FILE - Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a working luncheon in Kuwait.
    Dorian Jones
    The Iranian foreign minister visits Turkey Saturday as the Turkish government continues to be mired in a deepening crisis involving a Turkish state bank that allegedly laundered money sent to Iran.

    The allegation is putting Ankara and its state banks under increasing international scrutiny and is raising questions about Turkey's ability to obtain future international financing and investment.

    Iranian foreign minister's Mohammad Javad Zarif's one-day visit is part of ongoing efforts to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

    But the visit comes at a potentially awkward time for Ankara, with one of its most prominent state banks at the center of a graft investigation involving Iran.

    Suleyman Aslan, the CEO of Halkbank, was detained after a large amount of cash was found at his home, much of it stored in shoe boxes. Prosecutors claim it is part of a conspiracy to launder billions of dollars for Tehran to avoid international sanctions.
     
    Analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners said the investigation has cast a shadow over the Turkish finance industry.

    “The accusations against Halkbank suggest that the Turkish banking system is not well defended or well monitored against money laundering and terror financing," he said. "I really need to see whether the loans to Turkey will be renewed."

    Trade increases

    Iranian-Turkish trade has markedly increased in recent years, despite ever-tightening international sanctions against Tehran for its controversial nuclear program.
     
    Much of that trade has been energy imports. Ankara is the biggest customer of Iranian gas. But international sanctions have made such trade increasingly difficult.
     
    Halkbank has been at the center of a “gas-for-gold” plan that allowed Tehran to buy gold with Turkish lira in exchange for Iranian natural gas and oil. Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear program prevented the country from getting paid in euros or dollars, so Halkbank used the gold to get around the restrictions.

    Washington, which is in forefront of pursuing sanctions against Tehran, had voiced concern over Ankara’s trade dealings with Iran

    But Asli Aydintasbas, a political columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, said the latest allegations may only cause limited adverse effects on Ankara’s relations with Washington.

    “I don’t think this going to be that damaging if it just stays at this," he said. "Turkey had significantly curtailed gold trade with Iran and the Americans were willing to overlook whatever remains. And Washington itself is trying to mend fences with Iran.”

    High cost

    Although the diplomatic fall out may be limited, the financial consequences could be costly.  Experts point out that there are severe penalties for any institution breaching the sanctions.

    Inan Demir, chief economist for the Istanbul-based Finans Bank, said the controversy comes at a bad time for Turkey.

    “There has been a lot of negative publicity around the Turkish banking system - and the state banks in particular - and even more specifically Halkbank," he said.

    "At a time of tighter global liquidity conditions, this negative publicity could lead to further tightening of financing conditions," he said. "And over the next 12 months Turkey is looking to refinance $164 billion of external debt."
     
    Turkey’s economic minister, Ali Babacan, has been dismissing the allegations against Halkbank, claiming it is part of a conspiracy against the bank and Turkey. He also defended Halkbank’s relations with Iran, describing it as natural and the envy of its competitors.
     
    But analyst Yesilada said that a worrying uncertainty hangs over the country’s financial industry.

    “Suddenly, there is this huge cloud of suspicion over Turkey in terms whether it is legitimate country to do business in,” he said.

    Despite the government removing hundreds of senior police officers and prosecutors linked to the graft investigation, the probe continues.

    Observers warn the prospect of further revelations would only add to feelings of uncertainty towards Turkey among international bankers and investors.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Rome from: USA
    January 05, 2014 1:49 AM
    The Turkish government , Is cheating , lying , circumventing each and all international laws to profit from weak Obama administration ad well as weak EU Catrine Ashton . The purpose being gaining financial strength , laying the foundation of another Sharie state like Iran with further goal to spread Islamist anarchy and terrorism through out the free world .once his dream of Ottoman Empire is in place they reveal the true back warded nature . They must be punished and stopped.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    January 04, 2014 7:21 AM
    This is more than just mere diplomatic visit, it is a thank you visit to commiserate with Ankara for its solid support to Tehran in the heat of the sanctions. It also goes beyond the support during the hard sanctions, it is to thank Turkey for revealing the spy ring whose modus operandi was graphically exposed by Ankara to Tehran around August 2013. Often times I have written here that Turkey is more or less an islamist regime and there is nothing in it that is civilized, European or NATO. Erdogan has always wished to take Turkey back to the Ottoman Empire days, rule like the Ayatollahs and make Turkey like Iran ruled with sharia laws. The sympathy is what is translated to the money laundering, and I bet the PM will do everything he is known for, including lying, to cover up for Iran.
    Even though the Prime Minister may be instituting investigations into these issues of money laundering et al, he is privy to every arrangement to cushion Iran against the effects of the sanctions imposed because of its nuclear program. Thus Erdogan has voiced his support for Iran's nuclear program, but being not able to further his position, resorted to illicit, illegal and unconventional approach to helping Iran beat the sanctions. This is cheating. It lands Turkey where Iran is - axis of evil and terror, after all it has openly identified with the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Hamas in Gaza which are terrorist organizations, and now with Iran which is a state sponsor of terrorism worldwide and chief axis of terror. The world is waiting to see the outcome of this investigation sweep Turkey out of the EU to which it is a disgrace - if all the above allegations prove true.

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    January 03, 2014 10:01 PM
    Why the US and the EU are hesitant to take punitive action against the Turkish bank Halkbank and Turkey for money laundering in favor of Iran circumventing economic sanctions against Iran? Is it because of the membership of Turkey in the NATO?

    by: Jacob Avi Cohen
    January 03, 2014 7:25 PM
    As an American, I can't believe how sneaky the Turkish government is. Turkey houses an American Air Force base and is a member of NATO. Why is Turkey money laundering dirty Iranian money. Iran is an axis of evil. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran is a rogue state. The United States of America must question its relationship with Turkey. Turkey must not act outside international law. Iran has 1,001 world economic sanctions against it. Iran is an outlaw. Iran must be punished. Co-operating with Iran is injustice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
    In Response

    by: ll cool j from: sydney
    January 04, 2014 12:02 AM
    Only something a redneck trailer trash from the american south would say haha! The United States is a state sponsor of terror you stupid yank! I guess this is an example of how poor your education is lol! Which country has iran invaded or attacked in the last 100 years?? Can you name one yankee boy? Or is your brain too far up your rear to think straight? The united states secretly funds factions so wars continue to brew. You donkey shagging yanks blew your own buildings up just to invade iraq and afghanistan and kill thousands of innocent people for no reason. You losers have no credibility. Bush babies. Lol

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora