Ankara Opening Gates to Iran Banks, Citing “Loosening Economic Sanctions”

Turkish outlet Today’s Zaman on Tuesday described a rush by Iranian banks to open and expand branches in Turkey in the aftermath of “growth restrictions” being lifted:

Bank Mellat, which has been in Turkey since 1982, faced restrictions in 2012 which led to a decline in its growth due to economic sanctions imposed against Iran. However, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) approved expansion requests from Bank Mellat last month in light of the US and the UN Security Council loosening economic sanctions after headway was made in negotiations regarding the curbing of Iran’s nuclear program. Afterwards, applications from the Iranian banks Pasargad and Tejarat to set up shop in Turkey were approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A report published in February by Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), identified Turkey as a key global hub of illicit and terrorist financing, and the country has long been criticized for providing Iran both direct resources and financial channels with which to circumvent Western sanctions placed on the Islamic republic. Top officials from the Treasury Department rushed to Ankara in the aftermath of the implementation of the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) – which eroded sanctions against Iran – to warn the Turks that “Iran is not open for business” and that “[b]usinesses interested in engaging in Iran really should hold off.”

Turkish outlet The Daily Sabah reported this week that, according to Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Alireza Bigdeli, Tehran and Ankara are now set to establish a free trade zone:

“The two countries are aiming to reach a volume of $30 billion in their trade and commercial relations by 2015 and we seek to attain this goal through planning and by removing possible obstacles,” Vaezi said during the meeting in Tehran in March. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a high-ranking political-economic delegation paid a visit to Tehran in January. During the visit, Erdoğan underlined his country’s support for starting a new chapter in relations with Tehran and said Turkey is in dire need of Iran’s energy resources.

[Photo: AFP news agency / YouTube]