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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs