ANKARA (Hurriyet)—Firmly implementing sanctions against Iran is the best way to achieve a peaceful resolution of the problem stemming from the Islamic republic’s controversial nuclear program, a United States official said Thursday.
The comments by Stuart Levey, the U.S. undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, came after a senior Turkish government official expressed doubts about the usefulness of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions.
“We believe that implementing the resolutions and sanctions robustly is the best way to achieve a peaceful resolution of the entire problem. By sharpening the choices for Iran, they can see the advantage of choosing to go through the open door that the [U.S.] president and other leaders around the world have laid out for them,” Levey told a small group of journalists following meetings in Istanbul with representatives of banks and financial institutions and in Ankara with senior government officials.
“We’re here in Turkey as part of that overall effort. Because Turkey of course plays an important role given its proximity to Iran as a neighbor. Implementation of the sanctions here is as important as it is everywhere,” he said.
“The purpose of this [visit] is to maximize our chances that the sanctions imposed on Iran are successful,” Levey said, adding that he had traveled to many countries as part of a global campaign to bolster support.
The U.N. Security Council adopted a fourth round of sanctions on Iran on June 9; Turkey, a non-permanent member of the body, voted against the move, though it said it would abide by the U.N. resolution.
During a visit to Washington on Thursday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said the sanctions would make it difficult for Turkey to achieve its aim of tripling trade volume with Iran. “We don’t believe in sanctions,” he said. “We don’t believe that will ultimately make the Iranians act as they are expected to act. So why would we do things in which we don’t believe? That’s the bottom line.”
Babacan said Turkish banks have become hesitant about dealing with Iran, adding: “Some of them [are] finding ways to do business, some of them may be pausing and trying to decide what to do, but there is obviously some hesitation.”
When asked about Babacan’s statement, Levey said what was important to the United States was to see the sanctions implemented. “We very much appreciate and need the active partnership with Turkey on this issue,” he said. “This is something we share very strongly with Turkey. Turkey is very much against having nuclear arms in Iran given its geographic location. We look forward to working closely with them to achieve this outcome.”
The U.S. official said he also wanted to clarify some misconceptions about the nature of the sanctions.
“We are not here to seek a trade embargo on Iran or to complain about all trade between Turkey and Iran. We are not here to single out Turkey,” he said, adding that the sanctions that have been imposed by the Security Council are “not a trade embargo and … not intended to be a trade embargo.”
Following the Security Council resolution, the United States and the European Union subsequently adopted their own stricter sanctions, outlining a number of Iranian banks and companies with which institutions and banks in third countries should not to do business.
Reports indicate that many banks and companies specifically belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were allegedly sponsoring the Iranian government’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
Levey said Turkish companies were taking these sanctions very seriously as they understood the potential challenges they would face if they continued doing business with listed Iranian companies. Washington sent a delegation to Turkey in August to urge both the government and private firms not to do business with certain Iranian banks and companies lest they be put on a black list observed by the United States and other Western nations.
Halting relations with foreign banks, freezing Turkish assets abroad, stopping syndication agreements and imposing pecuniary penalties are among the sanctions the United States could impose on Turkey, according to daily Milliyet.
Turkish lenders also risk being arrested abroad if they carry out any transfers with Iranian banks, the daily claimed Thursday.