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Turkey Says Unable To Quickly Diversify Away From Iranian Oil

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (right) meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Ankara on April 17.

Turkey says it will not be able to diversify oil imports quickly after the United States ended sanction waivers on purchases from Iran, and Ankara continues to urge Washington to reconsider its decision.

"It does not seem possible for us to diversify the sources of the oil we import in a short time," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on May 2.

Turkey has reduced its heavy reliance on Iranian crude in the past year – traditionally some 1 million barrels a day --- but Ankara said its refineries were not suited to handling oil from some other countries.

"We have to renew the technology of our refineries when we buy oil from third countries. That would mean the refineries remaining shut for some time. This, of course, has a cost," he added.

The statement comes a day after the United States told international buyers to stop oil purchases or face sanctions, ending six months of waivers for eight countries to continue buying Iranian oil to ease disruptions on their own economies.

Washington has encouraged countries to find alternative sources and has pressed Persian Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to export more oil to meet potential shortages arising from Iranian sanctions and prevent a spike in prices.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy on April 26 said Turkey was working to persuade Washington to allow oil refiner Tupras to continue crude imports from Iran.

"Tupras is following the subject closely. The characteristics of their refineries are suitable for Iranian oil. We are trying to convince the U.S.," Aksoy said.

Turkey and China are the only two countries so far to have expressed a need to continue substantial purchases of Iranian oil. Others, such as India, Japan, and South Korea, have indicated they will comply with U.S. demands.

China last month said it opposed "long-armed jurisdictions implemented by the United States" and would continue "rational and legal" cooperation with Iran.

The United States has said it wants to cut Iranian oil exports to zero as it looks to pressure Tehran for what it has called "malign" activities in the region, including support for extremists and efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the accusations.

With reporting by Reuters, CNBC, and TRT
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