EDITOR's NOTE: Wall street journal's article on Stuart Levey's visit to the region added after the second paragraph
Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct.19 / Trend E. Tariverdiyeva /
The U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
Stuart Levey will hold meetings with the Azerbaijani leadership today, the Embassy of the United States in Azerbaijan told Trend.
After talks in Baku he will leave for Turkey to hold meetings in Istanbul and Ankara.
According to the U.S. publication Wall street journal, the Obama administration dispatched its point man on Iran sanctions to Turkey and Azerbaijan, as the U.S. attempts to further constrict trade flows between Tehran and its closest neighbors
"We're looking to follow up on the steps needed to implement the latest United Nations sanctions against Iran and to share information, especially with the private sector, about threats posed by Iranian illicit conduct," Mr. Levey said in an interview last week, Wall street journal writes.
Turkey has emerged in recent months as a possible weak link in the growing international campaign to punish Iran financially for its nuclear work, the publication says.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged in September to triple trade between Turkey and Iran over the next five years, and has committed Ankara to establishing a preferential trade agreement with Tehran.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan, which shares deep ethnic and cultural ties with Iran, could also serve as an important gasoline supplier, Wall street journal writes.
The article also says that the U.S. last month also provided Beijing with a list of Chinese companies Washington believes are in violation of new U.N. sanctions targeting Iran.
U.S. officials wouldn't name any of the companies, but they are believed to include a number of major Chinese energy, defense and financial firms, the article says.
"The Chinese have pledged that they will enforce [U.N. sanctions] and promised to investigate these companies," said a senior U.S. official Monday, Wall street journal reports.
Iran is increasingly facing shortages of refined-petroleum products due to the mounting international sanctions, Western diplomats and Middle East-based businessmen said.
Turkey, which voted against the latest round of sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council in June, has been clear from the get-go that it planned to respect only U.N.-mandated sanctions and would ignore much tougher unilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union, the article says.
Turkish Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan this month complained that Turkish banks had been put under pressure to stop doing business with Iran, adding: "We cannot tolerate it," Wall street journal writes.
Turkish officials say the stance has nothing to do with any nascent Turkish-Iranian alliance or breaking with the U.S., but is simply a function of their belief that sanctions don't work and that better trade and stable relations with Iran are in Turkey's national interest.
Iran supplies Turkey with about one-third of its energy needs, with most of the rest coming from Russia.
Turkish politicians of all stripes frequently allude to heavy trade losses Turkey suffered as a result of sanctions imposed on Iraq at the end of the first Gulf War and say they are anxious not to repeat the experience, the publication reports.