US to check Turkey, Russia trade data for signs Ankara meeting sanctions pledge on goods

US to check Turkey, Russia trade data for signs Ankara meeting sanctions pledge on goods
Local reports indicate Russia has started shipping exports to Turkey via Abkhazia, a territory occupied by Russian troops since the 2008 Russo-Georgia War. / Travelpleb, cc-by-sa 3.0
By bne IntelIiNews April 10, 2023

The US will be scrutinising the March and April data on trade between Turkey and Russia for the impact of a pledge from Ankara to stop the transit of sanctioned Western goods to Russian importers, a senior US official was cited as saying on April 7.

James O’Brien, head of the US State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told Reuters that Turkish officials have been “very clear” with various governments and agencies that they have introduced a ban on the re-export of sanctioned goods to Russia, though Washington was yet to see the impact of the change.

“It will take us some time to see it, but we will see trade data from March and April and we will expect to see this trade dropping dramatically,” O’Brien was reported as saying, adding: “It’s the numbers. That’s all I care about.”

“We’re making clear this is a very high priority for the G7 – Russia is using these goods to make weapons,” said O’Brien.

The US and allies imposed extensive sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in late February last year, but Moscow has turned to trade routes through Turkey, Hong Kong, UAE and other countries, including nations across Central Asia, to keep supply channels open for essential goods, including semiconductors. Microchips are among “dual-use” items that can be ordered by non-military importers, but can then be switched to defence contractors.

The Turkish government handed companies a list of banned foreign goods

and instructed the firms not to transship the items to Russia from March 1, Istanbul Ferrous and Nonferrous Metals Exporters Association said last month.

Russia, meanwhile, looking to strengthen its exports despite sanctions, has started delivering goods to Turkey via Abkhazia, a self-proclaimed republic in Georgia under Russian control, according to local media reports. There is press speculation that the trade could in part amount to another attempt by Russia to evade international sanctions through re-exports to third countries.

Frst deputy chairman of the Abkhazian State Customs Committee, Alias Labakhua, confirmed that a locomotive pulling 62 containers had arrived in Abkhazia and was destined for Turkey. According to Labahua, the train was then scheduled to return to Russia with another cargo.

Last week marked the first arrival of a Russian container train carrying 62 containers and 2,700 tonnes of cargo in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, SOVA reported. It appeared that the cargo was due to be trans-shipped to Turkey on a Black Sea route using the ship Anatolian.

The Georgian government has not yet commented on the transit of goods to Turkey via Abkhazia.