Turkey’s multi-billion-dollar gold sales to neighboring Iran could put the country on a collision course with its close ally, the United States, when high-ranking diplomats from the two countries hold talks in Washington.
Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu was scheduled to be in Washington from January 14-16 for discussions with State Department officials, including US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. The gold sales were expected to come up during the talks, which will cover a broad range of Middle East-related topics. But a senior Turkish official told EurasiaNet.org that Turkey itself did not intend to raise the gold-for-gas issue.
"We have no plans to talk about it, but the US can bring it up,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
Through the first six months of 2012 Turkey’s gold trade with Iran totaled $6.5 billion, according to various news reports. For the entire year, the value of the gold shipped to Iran from Turkey is estimated at $11-12 billion, according to industry analysts and media accounts. Worldwide in 2010-11, Turkey had total exports of gold and precious gems worth about $4 billion.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.