Iraqi Kurdistan exporting oil to Turkey, defying Baghdad

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An oil worker tending to a supply pipeline in Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo – AFP

An Iraqi Kurdistan official admitted on Sunday the Kurdistan Regional Government has started pumping oil to Turkey without an explicit permission from Baghdad.

The Iraqi central government insists it reserves the sole right to export oil, which accounts for the lion’s share of the country’s income and is locked in a dispute with autonomous Kurdistan region.

“We started exporting limited quantities of crude oil to Turkey a few days ago,” Seerwan Abubaqr, an adviser to the Kurdistan government’s natural resources ministry, told AFP.

He added that the crude was being exported to Turkey so it could be refined into various products before being brought back to Kurdistan.

The Kurd official blamed the central government for neglecting his region’s needs and said: “If we need to, we will export oil to Iran. We will continue exports of crude oil until the central government provides the region with oil products.”

KRG administration insists Baghdad has barred the dispatch of petroleum products to the northern region in response to the autonomous government’s decision to go ahead with oil exploration deals with foreign companies. The Iraqi oil ministry persistently denies the allegations.

“Nobody has the right to export oil, gas, or oil products to foreign countries,” said Faisal Abdullah, spokesman for Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy premier responsible for energy affairs.

“Only the oil ministry of the government in Baghdad has the right to export oil or oil products.”

Both Arbil (Hawler) and Baghdad are locked in a dispute over oil as Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) looking into ways to increase oil production and export capabilities. The autonomous regional administration has also halted oil exports to Iraq in a payment row. The Kurdistan region has its own elected government. It also has a well-trained militia force called the Peshmerga.

ExxonMobil is already operating in Iraq, producing around 370,000 barrels a day of oil from the West Qurna field, under a service contract with the Iraqi government. Baghdad has previously excluded companies operating in the Kurdish region from oil contracts in the rest of the country.


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