Exclusive: Senior US Treasury official to warn UAE, Turkey to avoid sanctions

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department’s top sanctions official on a visit to Turkey and the Middle East next week will warn countries and companies that they could lose access to the U.S. market if they do business with businesses subject to US restrictions as Washington thwarts Russia’s attempts to avoid sanctions imposed over its war in Ukraine.

Brian Nelson, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, will travel to Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey from January 29 to February 3 and meet with government officials as well as businesses and financial institutions to reiterate that Washington will continue to aggressively enforce its sanctions, a Treasury spokesman told Reuters.

“Individuals and institutions operating in permissive jurisdictions risk potentially losing access to US markets for doing business with sanctioned entities or failing to perform appropriate due diligence,” the spokesperson said.

While in the region, Nelson will discuss the Treasury Department’s efforts to thwart Russia’s efforts to evade sanctions and export controls imposed over its brutal war against Ukraine, Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, the risks of illicit financing undermining economic growth, and foreign investments.

The trip marks the last visit to Turkey by a senior Treasury official to discuss sanctions series of warnings last year by Treasury and Commerce Department officials, as Washington stepped up pressure on Ankara to ensure U.S. restrictions on Russia were implemented.


Nelson’s trip coincides with a period of strained relations between the United States and Turkey, as the two NATO allies disagree on a host of issues.

More recently, Turkey’s refusal to green light the NATO bids of Sweden and Finland has alarmed Washington, while Ankara is disappointed that request to purchase F-16 fighter jets is increasingly linked to whether the two northern countries can join the alliance.

Nelson will visit Ankara, the Turkish capital and financial center Istanbul on February 2-3. It will warn businesses and banks that they should avoid transactions involving potential transfers of dual-use technology that could eventually be used by the Russian military, the spokesman said.

Dual-use items can have both commercial and military applications.

Washington and its allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions targeting Moscow since the invasion, which killed and wounded thousands and reduced Ukrainian cities to rubble.

Turkey condemned Russia’s invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine. At the same time, it opposes Western sanctions against Russia and has close ties to both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbors.

He also boosted trade and tourism with Russia. Some Turkish firms have bought or are seeking to buy Russian assets from Western partners who are pulling out because of the sanctions, while others maintain large assets in the country.

But Ankara has promised that international sanctions will not be circumvented in Turkey.

Washington is also concerned about avoiding US sanctions against Iran.

United States last month imposed sanctions on prominent Turkish businessman Sitki Ayan and his network of companies, accusing him of acting as an enabler for oil sales and money laundering on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

While in the United Arab Emirates, Nelson will note the country’s “poor compliance with sanctions,” the spokesman said.

Washington has imposed a series of sanctions on companies based in the United Arab Emirates Evasion of sanctions related to Iran and on Thursday designated a UAE-based aviation firm to support Russian mercenary company Wagner Group fighting in Ukraine.

(This story has been corrected to change the headline to UAE, Turkey, not Middle East; adds Turkey in paragraph 1)

Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Humeira Pamuk Editing by Don Durfee and Leslie Adler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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