| DUBAI, June 5
DUBAI, June 5 Turkey has steeply cut oil imports
from Iran in May and June, a source at the country's sole
refiner told Reuters, to avoid U.S. sanctions after official
trade data showed stubbornly high imports in April.
Lower imports from Ankara will add pressure on Tehran which
is struggling to sell oil as the West expands sanctions to
persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear programme.
A sharp drop in crude prices in May below $100 a barrel
is a further blow for Tehran which is heavily dependent
on oil revenues.
The EU will join the United States in imposing a total ban
on imports of Iranian oil from July.
Turkey, the world's fifth largest buyer of Iranian oil,
pledged in March to cut imports by 20 percent in a move similar
to Iran's Asian customers such as Japan and South Korea.
Turkey's only crude buyer, refiner Tupras, has a
term contract with Iran that expires in August allowing it to
lift 180,000 bpd.
However, according to official trade data it bought an
unusually high 270,000 bpd of Iranian crude in March and fresh
data for April showed imports at 249,000 bpd.
A source at Tupras said volumes have in fact been much
smaller as April data included some purchases made in March.
He added that if counted by loading dates, April imports
have been just 107,000 bpd and in May they amounted to 142,000
"The plan for June is the same -- 142,000 bpd," the source
said, adding that the company planned to keep its imports at
around 80 percent of contracted volumes after July.
"We are abiding by our declaration from the end of March.
We're aiming to continue in July in line with June," he said.
Most European refiners have gradually stopped lifting
Iranian crude ahead of the EU embargo. From July 1 Turkey will
remain effectively the sole buyer of Iranian crude in Europe.
EU imports of Iranian crude fell to around 350,000 bpd in
April from over 700,000 bpd last year, trade data compiled by
Turkey accounted for 7 percent of Iran's crude oil exports
in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information
Official trade data shows that in the first four months of
this year, Turkey got about 58 percent of its near 6 million
tonnes in crude supplies from Iran.
Iraq, its second biggest supplier, trailed far behind with
743,537 tonnes, or 45,000 bpd in the first four months.
Other suppliers were Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia,
Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. In 2011, Iran provided more than half
of Turkey's total crude imports at just over 18 million tonnes.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, editing by Daniel Fineren)