Turkey dismisses concerns over a US sanctions warning

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Turkey’s finance minister said on Friday it is “meaningless” for local businesspeople to be concerned by a letter sent by Washington to a Turkish business group that warned of sanctions if companies establish relations with penalized Russians.

NATO-member Turkey has sought to strike a balance between Moscow and Kyiv by criticizing Russia’s invasion and sending arms to Ukraine, while opposing the Western sanctions and continuing trade, tourism and investment with Russia.

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Some Turkish firms have purchased or sought to buy Russian assets from Western partners pulling back, while others maintain large assets in the country. Ankara has repeated that Western sanctions will not be circumvented in Turkey.

The US Treasury warned both the country’s largest business group TUSIAD and the finance ministry this month that Russian entities and individuals were attempting to use Turkey to bypass Western sanctions.

“It is meaningless for a letter relayed to Turkish business groups to create concern in our business circles. We are pleased to see that the United States, our ally and trade partner, is inviting its businesses to invest in our economy,” Nebati said in a tweet.

“Separately, we are determined to improve our economic and commercial relations with our neighbors especially in the areas of tourism and various sectors within a framework that is not subject to sanctions,” he said.

All actors in Turkey’s economy are tied to free market principles and are working to obtain a bigger share of global trade, Nebati added.

Turkey, which has close ties and Black Sea borders with both Russia and Ukraine, has said sanctioning Russia would have hurt its already strained economy and argued that it is focused on mediation efforts between the sides.

One benefit for Turkey has been a jump beyond pre-pandemic levels in foreign visitors last month, thanks largely to Russian visitors with little other option due to Western flight restrictions.

The head of a metal exporters group said this month that Russian demand had increased for Turkish products it could no longer source from European companies, and that Turkish companies had received enquiries from European businesses about supplying Russia via Turkey.

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