The United States is investigating whether trade between Venezuela and Turkey violates sanctions against Venezuela and plans to act on any violations, according to a new report.
“We are looking at the nature of Turkish-Venezuelan commercial activity, and if we assess a violation of our sanctions, we will obviously take action,” a senior U.S. official told Reuters on Thursday.
The reported probe comes as Marshall Billingslea, U.S. assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury Department, is scheduled to meet with Turkey’s government in Ankara on Friday.
The Trump administration introduced new sanctions on Venezuelan gold in November, with U.S. officials saying at the time that it was intended to target corrupt members of that country's government.
Turkey, a NATO ally, imported 23.63 metric tons of gold — worth $900 million — from Venezuela last year, Reuters reported Thursday, citing Turkish data.
The reported review of Turkey's trading relationship with Venezuela comes as the Trump administration urges members of the international community to back opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president.
President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE called Guaidó this week to congratulate him after he named himself interim president, but several countries, including Turkey, Russia and China have continued to back Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed support for Maduro, whom the U.S. has called on to give up power. Erdoğan called Maduro last week to express support after the Trump administration recognized Guaidó as the interim president.
Venezuela has faced escalating political crisis, with several European nations calling on Maduro to hold new elections by Sunday. Election officials said Maduro won the country's previous elections, but they were widely considered illegitimate.
Maduro has also been accused of human rights violations and the country has struggled with hyperinflation. Meanwhile, the U.S. has warned of a "significant response" to any threat made against Guaidó since he declared himself interim president.
The opposition leader said Thursday that members of a special police force showed up at his house asking for his wife.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back MORE (R-Fla.), who has been a vocal supporter of Guaidó, tweeted that there would be "severe" consequences for any violence.