No doubt about Turkey’s gold trade with Iran: US
‘I can assure you we are looking very carefully at evidence that anyone outside of Iran is selling gold to the government of Iran,’ a US top official says. REUTERS photoA top United States official has said that there is no question that there was gold going from Turkey to Iran, stressing that the U.S. would rigorously enforce “without fear or fail” sanctions starting on July 1 that ban governments or private companies from selling gold to Iran.
David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told lawmakers in testimony there had been an increase in gold sales to Iran in response to the sharp depreciation in Iran’s currency, the rial.
The rial has lost two-thirds of its dollar value since late 2011 as a result of Western sanctions targeting the banking system and oil exports over Tehran’s disputed nuclear activities, putting many Iranians under financial pressure.
“I can assure you we are looking very carefully at evidence that anyone outside of Iran is selling gold to the government of Iran,” Cohen told the House of Representatives’ Foreign Relations Committee in testimony on Iran on May 15.
From July 1, the U.S. will ban the transfer of any precious metals or gold to Iranian state and private institutions, as well as Iranian citizens, as part of its effort to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear program.
Asked whether he was aware of a rise in gold sales from Turkey to Iran, Cohen acknowledged there was “no question that there is gold going from Turkey to Iran.”
Turkey, Iran’s biggest natural gas customer, has been paying Iran for its imports in Turkish Liras, because U.S. sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program prevent it from paying in dollars or euros. Iranians then use those liras, held in Halkbank accounts, to buy gold in Turkey, and couriers carry bullion worth millions of dollars in hand luggage to Dubai, where it can be sold for foreign currency or shipped to Iran.
However, after a one-month halt in January, Turkey exported almost $381 million worth of gold to Iran in March, Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) data showed.
US blacklists two UAE companies
The U.S. have blacklisted two Dubai-based trading companies, accusing them of helping Iran evade financial sanctions and effectively cutting them off from the U.S. financial system.
The move against Al Hilal Exchange and Al Fida International General Trading is the latest in a series of sanctions Washington has imposed to pressure Tehran to curb its atomic program, which the U.S. suspects aims to develop weapons. Iran says the program is for civilian purposes. However, nuclear talks between Iran and the UN atomic agency failed yet again on May 15. International discussions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions were held in Istanbul and Vienna but the Western reactions afterwards ranged from tepid to disappoint.
While the European Union’s foreign policy chief met Iran’s top nuclear negotiator in Istanbul for the first time since a fruitless effort in early April, the UN atomic body’s chief inspector admitted the parallel Vienna talks had ended without a deal.
Compiled from Reuters and Agence-France Presse stories by the Daily News staff.