US probing whether Turkey-Venezuela trade violates sanctions: report

US probing whether Turkey-Venezuela trade violates sanctions: report
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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.

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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 John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 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 RubioTom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' MORE (R-Fla.), who has been a vocal supporter of Guaidó, tweeted that there would be "severe" consequences for any violence.