Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says being allies does not mean that Turkey has to follow the US, and it would not cut ties with Iran simply because the US says so.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, seen here in a file picture, says the country will not bow to foreign pressure to cut ties with Iran.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, seen here in a file picture, says the country will not bow to foreign pressure to cut ties with Iran. (AFP)

Turkey will not cut off trade ties with Iran at the behest of other countries, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday, after the United States told countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil.

Washington has told its allies to cut imports of Iranian oil by November, a senior State Department official said this week, as President Donald Trump looks to cut off funding to Iran. Trump in May said his administration was withdrawing from the "defective" 2015 nuclear deal agreed by Iran and six world powers.

"If the United States' decisions are aimed at peace and stability, then we'll support them, but we don't have to follow every decision."

Cavusoglu said that where decisions were taken unilaterally by the US without consulting its allies, including Turkey, it could not expect those allies to always comply or agree.

"Being allies doesn't mean following every decision word for word," Cavusoglu told broadcaster NTV in an interview.

He said that Turkey also has its problems with Iran but that no nation, including the US, gains from instability in Iran.

"Iran is an important neighbour, and we have economic ties. We are not going to cut off our trade ties with Iran because other countries told us so."

He said he believed that the US was following the Israeli lead in its actions towards Iran.

Turkey, a NATO ally, is dependent on imports for almost all of its energy needs. In the first four months of this year, Turkey bought 3.077 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran, almost 55 percent of its total crude supplies, according to data from the Turkish energy watchdog (EPDK).

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year said Turkey was looking to raise the volume of its annual trade with Iran to $30 billion from $10 billion.

No F-35 problems

Cavusoglu also said there were no problems with the procurement of F-35 warplanes from the United States so far, and he did not think there would be any problems in the future.

A US Senate committee passed its version of a $716 billion defence policy bill last month, including a measure to prevent Turkey from purchasing Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets.

The amendment to the bill would remove Turkey from the F-35 programme over its detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson, a Christian pastor, faces up to 35 years in prison on terrorism and spying charges, which he denies. The Turkish government's decision to purchase the S-400 missile defence system was also used by US senators as grounds for the amendment.

Should the bill become law, US President Donald Trump would have to certify that Turkey does not threaten NATO, purchase defence equipment from Russia or detain US citizens.

Cavusoglu said Turkey had conveyed discomfort about the issue to Trump, who said necessary steps would be taken.

Source: Reuters