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Turkey offers 'a warehouse and bridge' for metals trade to Russia

FILE PHOTO: A worker checks copper cables being produced at a factory in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri

By Ceyda Caglayan

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Western sanctions have given the Turkish metals sector a chance to serve as "warehouse and bridge", the head of an industry group said, citing increased interest from Russian companies and also from EU companies seeking to sell to Russia via Turkey.

The West, including Britain and European Union countries, have imposed sanctions on Russian elites, banks and strategic industries since Russia on Feb. 24 began what it terms a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Cetin Tecdelioglu, head of the Istanbul Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals Exporters' Association (IDDMIB), said Russian demand had increased for Turkish products it could no longer source from European companies and Turkish companies had received enquiries from European businesses about supplying Russia via Turkey.

"What they (Russia) cannot buy from Germany, Italy and France, they are buying from us. Separately, a lot of EU companies are planning to sell their products to Russia via Turkey," he told reporters on Friday.

"They want to use Turkey as a warehouse and bridge, while Russia wants supply from Turkey," he said, adding that it was an "historic opportunity" for Turkish companies.

He did not name the companies concerned, nor specify how many, but he said they produced copper, aluminium, kitchenware and machinery.

Turkey's ferrous and non-ferrous exports totalled 8.9 billion lira ($495.58 million) in the first seven months of 2022, according to IDDMIB data, a rise of 33% from a year ago. They accounted for 6.2% of Turkey's exports.

Turkey's ferrous and non-ferrous metal exports to Russia rose by 26% year-on-year to $170 million by Aug. 8, the data also show.

The rift between Moscow and the West over Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to concerns of a possible cut-off of Russian gas to Europe, which could force the shut-down of some European industrial production.

Tecdelioglu said that could provide another opportunity for Turkish exporters of metal products.

Turkey has criticised Russia's invasion, sent armed drones to Ukraine and sought to facilitate peace talks between the sides. But it has not backed Western sanctions on Moscow and seeks to maintain close trade, energy and tourism ties.

Relations between the West and China have also deteriorated after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi https://www.reuters.com/world/taiwan-says-chinese-planes-ships-carry-out-attack-simulation-exercise-2022-08-06 visited Taiwan last week, which Tecdelioglu said was another potential chance for Turkey if it disrupts previous trade ties.

"We are receiving signals of some opportunities," he said.

Turkey has not commented publicly on Pelosi's visit, but has over recent years modified its language on Uyghur Muslims who form a significant minority in Turkey.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last year told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping it was important to Turkey that Uyghur Muslims live in peace as "equal citizens of China" but said Turkey respects China's national sovereignty.

($1 = 17.9589 liras)

(Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; editing by Barbara Lewis)