24 March 2012
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdođan is set to hold a “lengthy” meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Seoul on March 25, and the issue of Turkey’s oil imports from Iran is expected to be high on the agenda, sources say.
The two leaders, scheduled to meet on the eve of the Nuclear Security Summit in the South Korean capital, will discuss a wide range of issues, including the turmoil in Syria. The timing of the talks is critical: From Seoul Erdođan will travel on to Tehran for talks with Iran’s top leaders on March 28-29, and the Friends of Syria Group will convene in Istanbul on April 1.
“I expect it to be a comprehensive and lengthy meeting. That’s why it has been fixed not for the sidelines of the summit but a day ahead of it,” an aide to Erdođan said.
Erdođan will discuss Turkey’s oil imports from Iran, which will become subject to U.S. sanctions after June 28, with both Obama and with the Iranian leadership, Energy Minister Taner Yýldýz said.
Turkey is already in talks with Saudi Arabia and Libya in order to diversify its oil suppliers and eventually cut down the amount of oil that the country’s refiner TÜPRAŢ imports from Iran, in a bid to win an exemption from Washington’s sanctions.
“TÜPRAŢ will continue to import oil from Iran until its contract ends in August, but we cannot say anything yet on decreasing the quantity,” an energy ministry official said, stressing that the talks between Erdođan and Obama would be a determining factor in any decision.
Washington wants those countries that are the main buyers of Iranian oil, including China, India and Turkey, to present specific plans for how they will curtail their imports. “What we are looking for is for countries to come to us and tell us, if they believe that they should be in the category that deserves an exemption, what are the kinds of significant reductions that they are willing to pursue,” said Carlos Pascual, the State Department’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs.
In Tehran, Erdođan is scheduled to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, Erdođan’s aide said.
While in Seoul, Erdođan will meet also with senior representatives of 25 leading South Korean companies.
Energy Minister Taner signaled yesterday that Turkey might revive talks with South Korea for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Sinop, “if our conditions are met.”