Turkey - Russia

Turkey denies Russian claim It ships Islamic State oil

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called on Russia to reestablish dialogue instead of making "baseless accusations" that his country has been helping the Islamic State (IS) armed group sell oil. But Russia says that evidence that Turkey provides the IS with channels to sell its petrol are growing stronger by the day.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Reuters/Francois Lenoir

For the last month reports have been circulating that Turkey is indeed guilty of facilitating the oil flow from Syria to the international market.

In the report Isis export gateway to global crude oil markets, researchers point at changes in oil transport statistics.

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“We observed some spikes in the demand for crude oil from the terminal of Tehan, in south-eastern Turkey," says George Kiourktsoglou, one of the authors of the report, told RFI.

“We also observed that these spikes in demand for crude oil from Tehan coincided with a bombing campaign flown by certain Western nations against the Islamic State.”

“It seems to be a supply of smuggled crude extracted by the Islamic State and in areas controlled by [them], sold around these areas and possibly part of it make its way towards the terminal of Tehan and finding its way into the global crude oil market,” he says.

But how does this oil arrive in theTurkish port in the first place?

The infrastructure to facilitate oil smuggling by truck was created during the oil embargo against then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“Oil was smuggled from the north of Iraq by Kurdish smugglers,” says Imad Khadurri, who worked as a scientist with Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme but is now in exile and working as a researcher in Qatar.

“The current issue is that the Islamic State is exporting Syrian oil. The oil is lightly treated like a waste product, to comply with the Turkish rules,” he says, indicating that Kurdish smugglers mix it with Kurdish oil and bring it into Turkey, which then allows it to be transported to its ports.

The total quantities are not big but still substantial and Kiourktsoglou estimates. the overall quantity “can not exceed 45,000 barrels of oil a day,” which according to actual oil prices would be some two million dollars a day or about 700 million dollars per year.

Meanwhile, Russia is incresingly insistent that Turkey is a major sponsor of the Islamic State. And after the attacks in Paris public opinion in several countries seems to place increasing hope in Moscow's ability to fight the group.

But some eastern European countries are anxious that Moscow is slipping back into the West's good graces.

In Poland, always a strong critic of Russia, foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said he wants a 1997 deal on Nato-Russia ties to be scrapped to let the alliance instal permanent military bases on Polish soil, something that Moscow insists the agreement rules out.

“This is maybe not the right time to raise this but it’s been a topic that was present in Polish politics for quite a long time,” says Marcin Swiecicky, a member of parliament for the Civic Platform.

“I think the EU should stick to the sanctions against Russia. There can not be an exchange where Russia supports us in Syria and we relax on our requirements of the Minsk agreements and the Ukraine. You can not sacrifice Ukraine for supporting Syria."

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