June 29, 2018 / 10:13 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Turkey says will not cut off trade ties to Iran at behest of others

(Adds minister's quotes, context)

ANKARA, June 29 (Reuters) - 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. Being allies doesn't mean following every decision word for word," Cavusoglu told broadcaster NTV in an interview.

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

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

Cavusoglu also said that 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 U.S. 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 U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson, a Christian pastor, faces up to 35 years in prison on terrorism and spying charges, which he denies.

Cavusoglu said Turkey had conveyed discomfort about the issue to Trump, who said necessary steps would be taken. (Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler)

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