According to Bloomberg, U.S. Treasury Department Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson will visit Turkey this week. We know the Treasury Department’s top sanctions bureaucrat as the person who visited and personally brought the warning from the United States in January, following Turkey’s abnormally increasing exports to Russia.
Nelson will hold talks in Turkey on Russian sanctions and Hamas’ financial activity. The USA will ask Turkey to comply with sanctions against Russia and Hamas. The United States is also concerned about Ankara’s refusal to join American sanctions against Russian ships and airlines that continue to be serviced in Turkey.
The visit of an official with Nelson’s profile to Ankara twice within a year on the topic of sanctions is proof that the tension in US-Turkey relations has not improved after the elections. The US government appears to be delaying sanctions to Turkey due to the prevailing view in Washington DC that before the March 2024 elections doing so would benefit Erdoğan politically. Instead, the Biden White House has so far made its stance clear by lowering Turkey’s expectations from the US. The $20 bn F-16 order instead of F-35 the program from which Turkey was unceremoniously removed, did not materialize.
The USA thinks that one part of the lucrative financial business of Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist group, originates from Turkey. Last month, it even sanctioned several Turkish companies and some individuals for operating investment portfolios on behalf of Hamas. Nelson is expected to warn his counterparts in Ankara and Istanbul of possible sanctions against a number of Turkish companies.
Naturally, the Swedish issue will also be on the table. The “proposal” for ratifying Sweden’s membership to NARTO that Erdoğan signed and sent to the Parliament at the end of October has been sidelined, using the December budget talks of the Turkish Grand National Assembly as an excuse. There is no clarity yet as to whether the Grand assembly will take a floor vote on ratification in January 2024. It is possible that Erdogan’s nationalist sidekick Devlet Bahceli is the real obstacle for ideological reasons. If this is the case ratification may be delayed until after end-March 2024 municipal elections, further infuriating US and NATO.
Over the weekend, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Novak announced that a delegation from Turkey will come to Russia soon for talks regarding the natural gas hub planned to be established in Turkey. The goal is “to reach agreement on the project this year.” Considering that this year is only December, it is possible to hear a new and giant cooperation agreement between Turkey and Russia in a very short time. Russia’s statement coincided with the arrival of Undersecretary Nelson.
Following Nelson’s warning visit at the beginning of the year, Turkey stopped the transit of materials sanctioned by the EU and the USA to Russia, but did not announce this step to the public as an official decision. A similar step regarding Hamas’ money traffic and the transfer of financial affairs to friendly Qatar, which is the Hamas office, is possible in the short term.
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