ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury’s warning to Turkey that its companies risked being sanctioned if they did business with sanctioned Russians was “meaningless,” Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati said on Friday, assuring businesspeople there was no need for concern.
NATO-member Turkey has sought to strike a balance between Moscow and Kyiv by criticising Russia’s invasion and sending arms to Ukraine, while opposing the Western sanctions and continuing trade, tourism and investment with Russia.
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 U.S. 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.
“The letter relayed to Turkish business groups creating concern among business circles is meaningless. 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.
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“Separately, we are determined to improve our economic and commercial relations with our neighbours 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.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer & Simon Cameron-Moore)
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