Economy, Domestic Economy

Turkish Truckers Flout Fuel Agreement

Turkish Truckers Flout Fuel AgreementTurkish Truckers Flout Fuel Agreement

Several cases have been found in which Turkish truck drivers crossing the border between the Turkish city of Dogubayazit and Bazargan in Iran violated the transit fuel agreement signed by the two countries.

Under this agreement, which was reached in December 2014, Turkish trucks are required to seal their fuel tanks before entering Iran, where heavily subsidized fuel prices are about 8 times cheaper compared to Turkish rates. Iranian officials say Turkish companies have encouraged their drivers to take advantage of cheaper prices in Iran.

Recently, Iranian officials discovered that Turkish drivers have been circumventing the fuel sealing requirement. Qasem Khorshidi, head of the Anti-Smuggling Task Force, said: “Although the Turks were required to enter Iran with a full tank and not buy cheap Iranian fuel, they use a second tank for Iran’s subsidized fuel.”

Mohammad Javad Atrchian, a senior official at the Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization and in charge of tariffs and transit, believes the matter should be looked into by the Iranian government, particularly by Minister of Communications and Information Technologies, Mahmoud Vaezi, who is president of the Iran-Turkey Economic Commission.

The December agreement followed a tense dispute between Iran and Turkey on how the cost of subsidized fuel used by Turkish trucks can be compensated for the Iranian side. Disagreement between the two sides lingered on for several months and thawed soon after a series of retaliations on both sides turned a seemingly insignificant issue into a crisis in bilateral trade, estimated at around $15 billion annually.

However, due to the lack of measures to properly enforce the agreement to seal the tanks on the Turkish side, including failure to build a gas station near the border, thousands of trucks were standed over a long line stretching over 15km, forcing drivers to wait for over a week to cross into Iran and often leaving them without appropriate health and food services.

It was reported that in mid-June the issue was settled. Nevertheless, traffic was interrupted again when Iran temporarily closed the Bazargan border to Turkey on August 12, following an arson attack on an Iranian truck, which was blamed by Turkish authorities on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party forces known as PKK.

Several other attacks on Iranian trucks were perpetrated over the weeks, prompting Iran to warn its citizens against land travel to Turkey.

As of Friday, Atrchian said traffic was moving normally at the border. “Over the past two weeks nine Iranian trucks and one bus came under arson attacks due to instability in Turkey, but fortunately it has been some time since the last attack.”

Although the transit of Turkish trucks through Iran is far larger in volume compared to other neighboring countries, the fuel agreement between Tehran and Ankara is unique. “With the exception of Turkey, the transport fleets of our neighbors pay the difference in diesel fuel prices [between their country and Iran] at the border and refuel their tanks in Iran using the alternative diesel subsidy rate of 6,000 rials per liter ($0.18),” says Khorshidi.