Turkey will keep buying gas from Iran – minister N. Africa helps Turkish exports beat targets: trade group

ANKARA, Dec 26, (Agencies): Turkey will keep buying natural gas from neighbouring Iran as Western allies raise pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday.
“It is out of question for us to take a step backward,” Yildiz was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. “Furthermore, we have not been asked to take such a step.” Iran is Turkey’s second biggest natural gas supplier after Russia, and Yildiz said that Tehran supplies 18-20 percent of the gas that Turkey consumes. On Nov 30, the US Senate unanimously approved new economic sanctions aimed at further crippling Iran’s energy, shipping and port sectors a year after the Congress passed tough restrictions against Tehran. The latest US proposal is expected to sail through the US House of Representatives and be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Iran’s economy is struggling to cope with tightening sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over the past two years. An EU measure which took effect in July halted European purchases of Iranian crude oil, and has since caused Tehran’s oil exports to Asian customers to decline by between 10-30 percent. On Dec 7 however, the United States extended exemptions from sanctions designed to choke Iran’s oil exports to nine major economic powers, including Turkey, China, Taiwan, India and South Korea. Yildiz noted on Wednesday that the Turkish oil refiner TUPRAS has continued to import crude oil from Iran. “Unlike some European countries, Turkey is not a country which imports three-five percent of its needs from Iran,” the minister explained in a reference to crude oil shipments. “Last year, Turkey met almost half of its needs from Iran. It is an important source of imports therefore.” Yildiz added that Turkey had bought more oil from Libya, Saudi Arabia and Russia to make up for declining crude imports from Iran due to US-EU sanctions.

Turkey will exceed its 2012 export target and probably its 2013 target, Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TIM) Chairman Mehmet Buyukeksi told Reuters, despite regional conflicts and weak European markets. Turkey’s medium-term economic programme set export targets of $150 billion for 2012 and $158 billion for 2013. Exports were $135 billion in 2011. Turkey has proved relatively resistant to the slowdown that has blighted much of western Europe, partly because its firms have refocused their exports on the Middle East and Africa. Buyukeksi, speaking on Tuesday, said businesses had been looking for new markets particularly in North Africa. The exporters’ group will visit 50 countries next year, with its first visit to Gabon, Niger and Senegal in January. Turkish exporters have been diversifying away from the euro zone as the currency bloc’s sovereign debt crisis has sapped European consumer and corporate demand. The share of Turkish exports sent to the European Union — still Turkey’s main trade partner — fell to 38.5 percent in January-October 2012 from 47 percent a year earlier.

The share of North African and Middle Eastern countries in Turkish exports rose to 34.6 percent from 25.4 percent. Metals, automotive products and ready-to-wear apparel were the country’s main exports. “Exports to European Union countries dropped 9 percent in the first eight months of 2012, the decline is 7 percent in the first 11 months. The drop in exports is getting smaller from month to month and this gives us hope regarding a recovery in exports to European Union,” Buyukeksi told Reuters in an interview. Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines, in which Buyukeksi is a board member, will open 25 new destinations in 2013, supporting Turkish exporters’ bid to diversify their markets, he said. However, regional conflicts are hurting exports to 12 countries, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, Buyukeksi said, adding that Turkish exports to neighbouring Syria could revive once the conflict there ends and reconstruction begins.

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