ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that his country would ignore the sanctions that the US has imposed against Iran this week – a defiant tone, Ankara's recent efforts to ease tensions could complicate Washington.
Mr Erdogan opposed the Trump administration and said US sanctions could disrupt the world order.
"We do not want to live in an imperialist world," Erdogan told reporters following a meeting with the legislator of his ruling Justice and Development party. "We will absolutely not comply with such sanctions."
Without vital gas imports from Iran, Turkey could not survive the winter.
"We can not let our people freeze in the cold," said the Turkish president.
Mr. Erdogan's broad end contrasted with nearly four weeks of diplomatic intrigues exchanged by Ankara and Washington after US pastor Andrew Brunson was released by Turkey last month.
While the pastor's dismissal ended a protracted diplomatic conflict, Messrs. Trump and Erdogan, who are expected in France this weekend for the centenary celebrations of World War I, are still facing a plethora of trouble spots ranging from strategic divergence to Syria to purchase a russian turkey missile system.
US officials have complained about what they call "unlawful detention" of another US citizen and three local employees of his consular posts. Turkish officials said they expected more support from the US to force Saudi Arabia to order the murder of a Saudi journalist in Istanbul last month.
Last week, as part of the bilateral warm-up, the US suspended sanctions on two Turkish cabinet members, who were imposed in August when Ankara refused to release Mr. Brunson. Turkey lifted similar sanctions it had imposed on retaliatory measures.
And on Monday, the US included Turkey in a list of eight countries to which they granted exemptions, and exempted them from the new sanctions on Iranian oil.
Mr. Erdogan did not mention the exception in his comments on Tuesday. In Ankara, officials said the waiver was not part of a consideration. Instead, they convinced their US counterparts that sanctions would affect peace and stability in the Middle East.
"We have clarified this reality in talks with US officials," said Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez over the weekend, after he was informed of the US waiver decision. "Now it's clear that what we said during these talks was eventually accepted," he told Turkish state news agency Anadolu.
Turkey imports about half of its oil and one fifth of its gas needs from Iran. Unlike oil, which can be obtained from tankers from a variety of suppliers, Iranian gas is delivered to Turkey via pipelines and decades of contracts.
US officials have cited this infrastructure restriction as the main reason for granting a waiver for Turkey. Washington worried that the Turkish authorities might try to turn any gas shortage into an anti-American sentiment.
However, Ankara is concerned with what will happen to the non-energy part of its 12 billion dollar trade in bilateral trade with Iran, which is not covered by the derogation and banned under the new sanctions.
Despite Mr Erdogan's instruction to disregard the sanctions, Turkish entrepreneurs have disconnected themselves from the desire to engage in lucrative trade with Tehran and the fear of being caught in US crosshairs.
Although Turkish authorities have said they expect a mercy from the US in the case of a Turkish lender
The bank is suspected by the US authorities of helping Iran to avoid a sanction round and could face heavy fines. The bank has denied the violation of US sanctions.
"We have trade relations with Iran and it is impossible to immediately break this link," said Umit Kiler, chairman of the Iran-Turkey Business Council in Istanbul. "But we take the US warning seriously."