Turkey has begun talks with Saudi Arabia on long-term crude oil purchases, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Tuesday, after the United States said it would exempt Turkey from financial sanctions because it cut purchases of Iranian oil.
Yıldız said the talks were in line with Turkey's main energy target to increase the number of countries from which Turkey imports crude oil.
"Talks with Saudi Arabia on long-term crude oil purchases have started. This doesn't concern only Tupras but also concerns Saudi Arabia's Aramco. Talks are still going on; they will discuss the quantities between them," Yildiz told reporters.
Asked whether the Saudi oil would be as cheap as Iranian oil, Yildiz said Turkish refiner Tupras would compare crude oil prices and take the decision itself.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the U.S. would exempt India, South Korea, Turkey and four other countries from financial sanctions because they have significantly cut purchases of Iranian oil.
"We aim to increase the number of countries where we buy natural gas from five to seven or eight and the number of countries where we buy crude oil to 14, if possible, from 11. We determined Libya as the 12th country. Tupras has made connections to buy around 1 million tonnes (of oil)," Yildiz said.
At the end of March, the minister said Turkey would diversify its oil supplies, and the first shipment of crude under a Libyan term contract deal arrived in February.
"The United States decision doesn't have a legal binding force, but they are our strategic partners. The priority will be on meeting Turkey's growing energy needs promptly and from resources as cheap possible," Yildiz said.
He said Turkey remained one of the countries with the highest levels of trade with Iran and that it aimed to increase trade volumes.
Turkey has also been working with Venezuela for months on a project under which the South American country would provide oil products to Turkey in exchange for the construction of housing there.
"Our work with Venezuela is now at the final stage. We are working towards a plan where we import petroleum coke in exchange for our contractors' working there," Yıldız said.
Yıldız said a Turkish contractor had already built 1,500 houses near Caracas and that ultimately 350,000 houses would be built.