Turkey says may still get U.S. waiver on Iran sanctions
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey could still get a waiver over sanctions which the United States plans to implement on countries buying oil from Iran despite not being named on a list of exempted nations released by Washington, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday.
"Turkey's absence from the United States waiver list regarding the Iran issue doesn't mean it will not be included," Yildiz told reporters at an energy conference in Ankara.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan plans to raise the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama during a nuclear security summit in South Korea later this month, Turkish officials told Reuters.
Turkey imports around 200,000 barrels per day of oil from Iran, representing over 7 percent of Iran's oil exports. Yildiz said Turkey would continue to buy oil from Iran until existing contracts expire.
The United States exempted Japan and 10 EU nations from financial sanctions because they have significantly cut purchases of Iranian crude oil, but left Iran's top customers China and India exposed to the possibility of such steps.
The decision announced on Tuesday is a victory for the 11 countries, whose banks have been given a six-month reprieve from the threat of being cut off from the U.S. financial system under new sanctions designed to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.
Yildiz said Turkey could not halt purchasing from Iran unless other suppliers were lined up.
"It is out of the question for us to stop buying oil from Iran unless the supply is replaced," Yildiz said.
Turkey has struck a new contract to buy oil from Libya, and has held inconclusive talks over the possibility of buying from Saudi Arabia.
Turkey's sole refiner Tupras, a unit of Koc Holding, is the main customer for Iranian crude. It buys some 30 percent of its crude oil from Iran and has an 9 million metric tonnes (9.9 million tons) annual purchase contract.
Koc Energy Group Chairman Erol Memioglu told reporters last month that Tupras' existing oil contract with Iran ends in August.
He said that he expected more clarity on the details of the sanctions in May, before Washington's sanctions on oil-related transactions take effect on June 28.
Tupras also warned that the price it pays for oil could increase if it has to seek alternatives to Iranian oil.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)