EghtesadOnline: Renewed US sanctions on Iran have left Turkey walking a tight rope between protecting its national interests and observing the principles of good neighborliness, but Tehran cannot expect all-out support from Ankara as it is grappling with its own economic woes, says a political analyst.
"Turkey, as Iran's neighbor, has cooperated more with the country in the era of sanctions. In this way, it advances both its own interests and a policy of good neighborliness," Rahman Qahremanpour also told ISNA in a recent interview.
However, he noted that Turkey's hands are tied down and it cannot support Iran economically because it is tackling a host of its own domestic issues.
"We cannot have high expectations of [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, as he is unlikely to seek confrontation with the United States on a new front, given the already tense ties with America," Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
A war of words recently escalated between the US and Turkey over Ankara's planned purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system, which could trigger US sanctions.
The Turkish leader's clout has declined in the past several years and the outcome of the recent Istanbul election has further weakened his status, the expert on international affairs added.
Turkish authorities earlier this month scrapped the result of a vote for Istanbul mayor lost by Erdogan's candidate, responding to calls by his AK Party for a re-run, in a move that hit the lira, Reuters reported.
It was a shock loss for Erdogan, who in the 1990s served as the city's mayor and had campaigned hard ahead of the nationwide local vote, his first electoral test since last year's sharp currency crisis tipped the Turkish economy into recession.
Tightly-Knit Global Economy
Qahremanpour maintains that Turkey cannot afford to resist US pressure to reduce economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic, as its economy is closely intertwined with that of the United States and the world.
The Trump administration had told buyers of Iranian oil to stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers that had allowed Iran's biggest customers, including Turkey, to import limited volumes.
A day after the US-imposed sanctions deadline passed, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country, which is almost completely reliant on imports to meet its energy needs, will be unable to diversify crude imports quickly as its refineries were not suited to handling oil from other countries.
Turkish imports from Iran have dropped gradually since May 2018, when the United States first mentioned possible sanctions, according to Reuters.
Qahremanpour said countries such as Turkey may be making efforts to maintain their "political independence" but prospects for setting up bilateral financial channels with them to evade US sanctions does not look bright because of their need to abide by the rules of the international system.
“For the same reason, a special financial mechanism launched by Europe to conduct non-dollar trade with Tehran and save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is limited in scope,” he said.
The Europeans have said INSTEX or Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges will initially be used only for smaller trade, such as humanitarian medical products and food, rather than oil-related transactions as repeatedly demanded by Tehran.