Turkey says Iran transactions ‘legal’

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek

Mehmet Simsek, the deputy prime minister responsible for the economy, argued that Halkbank’s transactions with Iran were allowed under the UN Security Council sanctions.

“This is an effort to expand a case left over from a previous term. When we discussed those issues with Halkbank thoroughly some time ago, we saw it was very clear that the bank had conducted brokerage with a neighbouring country in a scope allowed by the UN Security Council,” Simsek said speaking on TV channel Fox News on Thursday. “We have repeatedly told this to US officials but it appears they think otherwise,” added Simsek.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, deputy general manager of Turkish state owned bank Halkbank, was arrested on Tuesday in accordance with a Manhattan court decision, a day after being taken into custody in New York’s JFK International Airport. Atilla was charged with participating in a multi-year scheme conspiring with wealthy Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of illegal transactions through US banks on behalf of the Iranian government, violating US sanctions against the country.

Speaking three days after Mehmet Hakan Atilla’s arrest, the deputy prime minister concluded by saying, “the important thing is whether Turkey acted in line with principles adopted by the UN Security Council.”