US, EU increase pressure on Turkey over Russia sanctions

The Cradle, September 15, 2022 — The increase in pressure comes amid a boost in economic and energy cooperation between Moscow and Ankara.

US media outlet Financial Times (FT) reported on 15 September that the US and EU have increased pressure on Turkey to impose sanctions on Russia, warning against cooperation between Ankara and Moscow.

The FT report states that Washington and its allies will be focusing their efforts on sanctioning Turkey for its banking system’s adoption of the Russian Mir payment system.

“You’re going to see us kind of focus on financial sector evasion … We’ll send a message very clearly that, for example, third-country financial institutions should not be interconnecting with the Mir payment network because, you know, that carries some sanctions-evasion risks,” a US official was quoted to have said.

The report quotes another US official as emphasizing the need “to close loopholes” that will allow Turkey to use this system without consequences.

After the start of Moscow’s operation in Ukraine, Turkey did not follow suit in sanctioning Russia, citing a continued reliance on Russian energy. Since then, the two countries have engaged in efforts to deepen their level of economic cooperation, with Turkey doubling its Russian oil imports for the current year.

Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the western sanction policy for the ongoing energy crisis taking Europe by storm.

However, following a recent western initiative to impose a price cap on countries importing Russian energy, Turkey has been involved in talks with the US on a potential agreement that will allow Ankara to purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Washington.

In response to the increase in US and western pressure, two of the five main Turkish banks that have adopted Russia’s Mir system, have issued statements clarifying their positions.

“We closely monitor sanctions and take the necessary measures to carry out Mir card transactions in compliance with this policy,” Turkey’s Isbank said, stressing its “strict compliance with all applicable US sanctions.”

DenizBank, another Turkish bank, said: “We don’t execute transactions with sanctioned banks. We fully comply with international sanctions on Russia.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has said that despite the country’s policy of only enforcing UN-approved sanctions, it has made sure that Turkey does not become a “channel to evade sanctions” imposed by the west on Russia.

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