ISTANBUL — Turkey’s gold exports rose nearly 800% last year on the back of soaring sales to Iran and the trade will continue, despite tightening United States sanctions on Tehran, Turkey’s Economy minister said on Friday.
Report by Reuters
Turkish gold exports rose to $12,7 billion in the first eleven months of 2012 compared to the $1,47 billion exported in the whole of the previous year, Economy minister Zafer Caglayan told a briefing in Istanbul.
Around half of the exports $6,5 billion worth — went to Iran, while $4,2 billion went to the United Arab Emirates. Turkey exported just $54 million worth of gold to Iran in 2011. The shipments to Iran are not in breach of existing Western sanctions imposed over its disputed nuclear programme, but they have helped Tehran to manage its finances despite being largely frozen out of the global banking system.
Washington says Tehran is enriching uranium to levels that could be used in nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
“We will sell to any country that wants to buy from us,” Caglayan told the news conference.
“I will remain loyal to all the international agreements I have signed. But I will not be bound by other countries’ sanctions.” Turkey is Iran’s biggest natural gas customer, but Western sanctions prevent it from paying Tehran in dollars or euros. Iran is instead paid in Turkish lira — of limited value on international markets, but ideal for buying gold in Turkey. Couriers carrying millions of dollars worth of gold bullion in their luggage have been flying from Istanbul to Dubai, where the gold is shipped to Iran, industry sources with knowledge of the business said last year.