News / Middle East

    Turkey Aids Iran Through Gold Trade

    Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before an official meeting in Tehran, January 5, 2012.
    Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before an official meeting in Tehran, January 5, 2012.
    Dorian Jones
    Banks in Turkey continue to send gold to Iran despite U.S. pressure to curb a booming gold-for-gas trade, which helps Iran skirt international sanctions. 

    This month, Turkish customs grounded a Turkish cargo plane en route from Ghana to Iran that was reportedly carrying a ton-and-a-half of gold.

    Tehran has been accumulating huge amounts of the precious metal over the past year as a means of circumventing ever-tightening international financial sanctions over its nuclear enrichment program, which some nations fear is being used to develop a nuclear weapons' capability.

    Turkey continues to provide the lion’s share of Tehran's demand for gold, said Attila Yesilada, of the Istanbul-based research firm Global Source Partners.

    "Gold sales [to Iran] have been diversified through Switzerland and Abu Dhabi, but the annualized total for last year is something like $11 billion, most of it financed through the gold stock of Turkish people," Yesilada said.  "This gold has become Iran’s main currency in terms [of] securing necessities from abroad."

    Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan confirmed last November that Tehran pays for the gold from the Turkish Lira payments it receives for its gas exports to Turkey. Iran sells 90 percent of its natural gas to Turkey, making it Ankara's second largest supplier after Russia.

    To stem the flow of gold, U.S. President Barack Obama this month signed into law a ban on the sale of precious metals to Iran.  But Turkey is not bound by the measure, said Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal.

    "Turkey only feels itself legally bound only by U.N. Security Council resolutions or sanctions adopted under Chapter Seven," he said.

    However, analyst Yesilada said he expects Ankara to eventually comply.

    "The United States will first try to convince Ankara to unilaterally stop this. If that is not working, we will see rising pressure that paralyzes those [who] in any way intermediate or help intermediate this trade," he said.

    Until now Ankara has largely complied with U.S. measures against Tehran.  But Ankara still has to pay its bill for Iranian gas. Analysts point out that diversifying Turkey's energy dependency on Iran takes time and can be expensive. This month, Turkey signed a $12 billion deal with an Abu Dhabi company to develop the use of coal in energy production.

    But Jamshid Assadi, an expert on Iran at France’s Burgundy Business School, said there are short-term alternatives to gold for Ankara to pay Tehran.

    "One of the solutions for Iran, and they did that mainly with India, was that 'We sell you oil and you cannot pay us back so we do barter: you give us your products, whatever we need,'" Assadi said.

    A senior Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Ankara was looking into bartering as a means of continuing to trade with Iran. Experts point out bartering has an added bonus for Turkey.  Any products it barters will be locally produced, unlike gold, which it has to import.

    Bartering could also help allay security concerns, said Yesilada.

    "The problem now is neither Ankara nor Washington knows what Iran is using its gold for; it might be buying grain or other necessities, or maybe financing Assad’s forces [in Syria] or Hezbollah in Lebanon in... some terror acts," he said. "With barter, that is completely eliminated from the equation."

    With more than 2,000 Iranian companies operating in Turkey, there already is a business network that could facilitate large-scale bartering.

    With further sanctions against Iran possible, pressure is expected to grow on Turkey to lessen its energy dependence on Iran. Analysts think that process might accelerate with Tehran and Ankara increasingly at odds in the region, in particular over Syria.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: G Emil from: Ghana
    February 02, 2013 2:57 PM
    It is expected of every one to live right, speak the truth, and do justice. I believe the right thing must be done no matter who is involved.Think deep abt that.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    January 26, 2013 9:46 PM
    In my view, Turkey's Erdogan continues to play a double game, and is in fact using the Western block. He has one of the largest military forces in the world, if he had the courage, he could end the conflict in Syria in a matter of weeks. He has requested NATO help for the strict purpose of getting NATO involved in his scheme on Syria.
    The fact that Erdogan continues to violate the embargo against Iran, while at the same time fully supporting the opposition in Syria, demonstrates that he is double dealing against the West and at the same time double dealing Iran.
    The fact that he has taken sides, with the North African Islamists against the position of the EU and the US, is the most worrisome of his double dealing, because it puts him fully at odds with the US/EU and even the majority of the regional countries in Africa which support the French initiative in Mali, not only by word, but also have committed troups to help Mali restore its sovereignity. I think Erdogan's Turkey is no longer a true, dedicated and NATO principles supporting ally.
    In Response

    by: kadir from: turkey
    January 29, 2013 12:48 PM
    no one has the ability to say turkey to do sth. because turkey is a very big power and country in the world aspecially in the middle east where's the center of the world with its energy sources..

    by: Emrah from: Turkey
    January 25, 2013 5:26 AM
    Turkey needs energy for running its industry that feeds its people and our neighbor Iran has it cheaper but someone from another continent tells us "no, you can't buy it". it is just ridiculous!!!
    In Response

    by: Francisco from: Brazil
    January 25, 2013 8:52 AM
    Americans believe they can rule the world.
    So why don't they foot the bill and offer some free oil to Turks?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.