An agreement for the import of natural gas from Iran over a 23-year period, valued at around $20,000 million, was signed on 5 May. The agreement includes provision for the construction of a pipeline to import the gas. The outstanding issue to be finalised within the next six months is the price of the gas, said Iranian Oil Minister Gholamreza Aqazadeh after signing the accord with Energy & Natural Resources Minister Veysel Atasoy at Ankara airport (see Iran).

Turkish officials have confirmed that Ankara still plans to buy around 4 million-5 million tonnes of Iranian crude this year, similar to last year’s liftings of 5.4 million tonnes, when Iran was the second largest supplier behind Saudi Arabia in total oil imports of 21.2 million tonnes. Oil accounted for $649 million out of the total $692 million worth of imports from Iran in 1994.

Turkey exported around $249 million worth of goods in 1994, compared with $294 million in 1993, mainly sugar, edible oil, and materials like synthetic yarn for Iran’s textile sector. The trend in exports turned upwards in January-February of this year.

Despite debt problems stemming from payment delays, relations with President Rafsanjani’s government have improved since the 1980s, when there was a conflict between the respective secular and religious standpoints. This was reinforced by the visit of President Demirel to Tehran last summer. Ankara’s strengthening ties with Iran has not been to the US’ liking, Ankara diplomatic sources noted. Nor was Washington pleased by last year’s agreement between participating states, including Russia, for the routing of a $3,000 million export line for natural gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran last year.