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US Official Rejects Russian Assertion of IS Oil Sales to Turkey

FILE - A video screen grab from the Russian Defense Ministry's YouTube channel shows an image of the ministry's presentation of what it says is Turkey's involvement in trading Islamic State oil.

A senior State Department official on Friday cast doubt on a Russian assertion that Turkish government officials illegally buy large amounts of oil from Islamic State militants in Syria.

“I do not believe there is significant smuggling between ISIL-controlled areas and Turkey of oil of any significant volume,” said Amos Hochstein, the special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs.

His comments came after Russian officials presented what they said was satellite imagery from the past few months showing thousands of trucks carrying oil from Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria to Turkey.

A Russian Defense Ministry official said Wednesday that there were three main routes for transporting Islamic State oil into Turkey and displayed stills and video footage of what he said were trucks shipping IS oil on these routes. One piece of footage showed a long line of trucks at what appeared to be a crossing point on the Syrian-Turkish border.

In a Friday briefing, a senior State Department official said U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on Islamic State-controlled oil sites in Syria had disrupted the militant group’s oil business.

“It is not an economically viable operation" for smugglers to try to transport oil from Islamic State sites in Syria to Turkey, when there is a market for oil inside Syria, the official said.

The State Department official also said the Islamic State’s Syria market included selling oil to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“We have seen significant swings in how much they [the Syrian government] are buying at any given point,” said the official, who added that buying “spiked” when there was an oil “crunch” in government-controlled areas.

The Islamic State controls more than 10 oil fields in the territory it holds.

A State Department official said that for Islamic State, control over the oil fields is not only about revenue but also about projecting a “false” image that it is a state.

Russia stepped up its rhetoric against Turkey last week after Turkey downed a Russian military jet that it said had illegally entered Turkish airspace. Russia said its jet was flying inside Syria.