By Merve Aydogan
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey will continue to purchase Iranian natural gas, Reuters reported Wednesday quoting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In a late Tuesday interview with Reuters in New York on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, Erdogan said the U.S. threats to punish countries doing business with Iran would not deter Turkey from purchasing Iranian natural gas.
“We need to be realistic … How can I heat my people’s homes if we stop purchasing Iran’s natural gas?,” Reuters quoted Erdogan as saying.
The first round of the U.S. pre-nuclear deal sanctions on Iran, largely targeting the country’s banking sector, came into effect in August.
In November, a second phase of U.S. sanctions banning the purchase of Iranian oil and gas is expected to come into effect.
The sanctions target Tehran's acquisition of U.S. dollars, precious metals trade, transactions related to Iran's rial currency, activities related to Iran's sovereign debt, and the country's automotive sector.
– Syria crisis
Regarding the ongoing Syria crisis, Erdogan reiterated that “it was impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power.”
He added that the withdrawal of “radical groups” already started from a new demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib region.
Last week, Turkey and Russia agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition stronghold, following a meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Ankara and Moscow also signed a memorandum of understanding calling for the “stabilization” of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
According to the MoU, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing renewed fighting.
– Pastor Brunson case
Also speaking on the detention of pastor Andrew Brunson who is under house arrest in Turkey for terrorism charges, Erdogan said Turkish justice, not politicians, will decide the fate of American pastor.
“This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges … On Oct. 12, there will be another hearing and we don’t know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict,” he told Reuters.
As the Turkish president, Erdogan has no right to order the release of Brunson, he emphasized, saying: “Our judiciary is independent. Let’s wait and see what the court will decide.”
Turkey and the U.S. experience rocky relations following Washington’s imposition of sanctions over the detention of Brunson.
Brunson's charges include spying for the PKK — listed as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and Turkey — and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the defeated coup attempt in Turkey of July 2016.
Political tensions between the two countries had sparked worries in markets this month, after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to use economic pressure over the American pastor who faces terrorism-related charges in Turkey.