Turkey has denied exporting technology products with military applications to Russia in the face of increasing US pressure for Ankara to curtail its ties to Moscow.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference in Ankara alongside US secretary of state Antony Blinken that it was “not true that products such as electronics . . . used in the defence industry are exported by us to Russia”.
The remarks came just weeks after a senior US Treasury official travelled to Turkey to urge businesses there to avoid transacting with Russian companies subject to sanctions and not to sell products that can be used in Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.
“If our US or EU allies have information and documents at hand, we want them to give those to us. And if there has been any violation in these matters, we will do what is necessary,” Çavuşoğlu said on Monday.
Turkey, a Nato member, does not participate in international sanctions against Russia, something that has prompted consternation in many western capitals. The country’s trade with Russia boomed last year, but Çavuşoğlu said that was due in part to higher prices for Russian energy imports.
So-called dual use products, typically electronics that appear benign but which contain components such as chips that can have military applications, have become a point of concern for western powers keen to disrupt Moscow’s ability to manufacture military equipment.
“Turkish businesses and banks should . . . take extra precaution(s) to avoid transactions related to potential dual-use technology transfers that could be used by the Russian military-industrial complex,” Brian Nelson, US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told Turkish bankers in Istanbul on February 3. “The marked rise over the past year in non-essential Turkish exports or re-exports to Russia makes the Turkish private sector particularly vulnerable to reputational and sanctions risks,” he said.
Businesses that get caught dealing with entities under sanctions or breaching US and European curbs risk being cut off from a swath of the international financial system. In September, several Turkish banks halted their use of a Russian payments system after pressure from Washington.
Also on Monday, Çavuşoğlu reiterated Turkey’s resistance to Sweden joining Nato. He urged international partners to convince Stockholm to take more actions to meet Turkey’s demands, while saying that Finland may be treated differently. Both Nordic countries are seeking to join Nato to protect themselves from future Russian aggression.
Sweden said it would distance itself from several Kurdish groups at the behest of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan claims these groups have close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ party, which is recognised by the EU and US as a terrorist organisation. But Turkey has pushed for further measures, including the deportation of Bülent Keneş, a journalist accused by Turkey of playing a role in the 2016 coup attempt.
Sweden’s Supreme Court last year rejected the extradition request, ruling that Keneş risked persecution for his political views in Turkey and Stockholm has said it can go no further in making concessions to Ankara.
Blinken said he remained confident that both Sweden and Finland would ultimately be allowed to join the alliance. He also expressed solidarity over this month’s huge earthquake that killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey and neighbouring Syria. Blinken said the US would provide $185mn to help the Turkish relief effort, up from a previous commitment of $85mn.
He added that President Joe Biden’s administration was supportive of Turkey’s plans to modernise its fleet of F-16 fighter jets and that the White House had made it clear to Congress that this was an important issue.
The US pulled Turkey from its advanced F-35 fighter jet programme in 2019 after Erdoğan purchased the S-400 missile defence system from Moscow. Tensions between the two Nato allies have remained fraught in recent years both over Turkey’s relations with Russia and Erdoğan’s tilt towards more authoritarian rule.