US official warns against business deals with Iran despite fresh deal

US official warns against business deals with Iran despite fresh deal

WASHINGTON – Anadolu Agency
US official warns against business deals with Iran despite fresh deal

Cohen’s last visit to Turkey was in December 2013 and he warned Turkey in 2011 about trading with Iran. Hürriyet Photo

The United States’ top Treasury official has warned companies to “hold off” on doing business in Iran because many of the sanctions against the country are still in place despite an interim nuclear deal.

U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen, who visited Turkey to discuss the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreed to by the P5+1 group, the European Union and Iran, said a significant portion of sanctions against Iran remained, including in the banking, energy and shipping sanctions.

“Iran is not open for business,” Cohen said, speaking to a small group of reporters after a meeting with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu in Ankara.

“Businesses interested in engaging in Iran really should hold off. The day may come when Iran is open for business, but the day is not today.”

Turkey has expressed hopes that the easing of sanctions against Iran will open business opportunities, especially in the energy sector. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was also scheduled to travel to Iran on Jan. 28.

Turkey imports gas and oil from Iran but the Turkish oil refiner, Tüpraş, was forced to reduce its Iranian oil purchases due to the sanctions.

Cohen also said he expected Turkey’s state-run banking institution, Halkbank, to continue processing oil payments to Iran.

“Halkbank has for some time been involved in handling oil payments for importing oil from Iran into Turkey and we expect that to continue,” Cohen said. “We talked more broadly about sanctions [...] on the banking sector so that there is good clarity on the scope of sanctions that remain in effect.”

An interim deal between Iran and the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – known as the P5+1 – came into force last week, granting Iran a limited easing of sanctions in return for temporary constraints on its uranium enrichment and nuclear development.

The U.S. official will also travel to the United Arab Emirates in the coming week to discuss the implementation of sanctions against Iran, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced Jan. 26.
Turkey had repeatedly asserted Halkbank, whose chief executive was arrested in connection with the graft investigation, is to continue mediating Turkey’s gas and oil payments to Iran, claiming the dealings with Iran are lawful.

The transfer of gold and money to Iran via Halkbank has been under scrutiny as part of the corruption investigation launched on Dec. 17, 2013, charging businessman Reza Zarrab with forming a ring that bribed officials, including Halkbank chief executive Süleyman Aslan, to help disguise illegal gold sales, former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and former Interior Minister Muammer Güler.