KRG presses on with oil pipe to Turkey de­spite U.S. fears

The Kurdish Globe - - EDITORIAL -

Iraqi Kur­dis­tan will press ahead with build­ing its own oil ex­port pipe­line to Turkey, the re­gion's en­ergy min­is­ter said on Thurs­day, de­spite U.S. ob­jec­tions due to fears the project could lead to the break-up of Iraq.

The au­tonomous Kur­dish re­gion is locked in a turf war with the cen­tral government in Bagh­dad over how to ex­ploit Iraq's hy­dro­car­bon riches and di­vide up the pro­ceeds.

Bagh­dad says it alone has the author­ity to con- trol ex­ports of the world's fourth largest oil re­serves, while the Kurds say their right to do so is en­shrined in Iraq's fed­eral con­sti­tu­tion, drawn up fol­low­ing the U.S.-led in­va­sion of 2003.

"We want to have an oil pipe­line to our­selves," Iraqi Kur­dish Min­is­ter for Nat­u­ral Re­sources Ashti Hawrami said at a news con­fer­ence in the re­gional cap­i­tal Ar­bil. "It is cur­rently in the works and we will con­tinue un­til it is com­pleted."

Crude from the Kur­dis­tan re­gion used to be shipped to world mar­kets through a Bagh­dad-con­trolled pipe­line to Turkey, but ex­ports via that chan­nel dried up in De­cem­ber, from a peak of around 200,000 bar­rels per day (bpd) due to a row over pay­ments with Bagh­dad.

The United States says the so­lu­tion lies in a na­tional hy­dro­car­bons law that has been de­layed for years by a power strug­gle be­tween Iraq's Sunni, Shi'ite and Kur­dish fac- tions, which has in­ten­si­fied since U.S. troops with­drew a year ago.

"The Iraqis have been strug­gling to pass a hy­dro­car­bons law. It is very im­por­tant that they suc­ceed in that," U.S. Am­bas­sador to Turkey Fran­cis J. Ric­cia­r­done said in Ankara on Tues­day.

Re­luc­tant to wait, Kur­dis­tan has been look­ing to re­source-hun­gry Turkey for an­swers. A broad en­ergy part­ner­ship be­tween them rang­ing from ex­plo­ration to ex­port has been in the works since last year.

Ma­jor­ity Sunni Turkey's deep­en­ing ties with the Kur­dis­tan re­gion in north­ern Iraq have height­ened ten­sions be­tween Ankara and the Shi'ite-led government in Bagh­dad.

"If Turkey and Iraq fail to op­ti­mize their eco­nomic re­la­tions... There could be more vi­o­lent con­flict in Iraq and the forces of dis­in­te­gra­tion within Iraq could be em­bold­ened," Ric­car­dione said.

Kur­dis­tan is al­ready by- pass­ing the fed­eral pipe­line net­work by truck­ing small quan­ti­ties of crude over the Turk­ish bor­der in ex­change for re­fined oil prod­ucts.

"The is­sue is that we are en­ti­tled to 17 per­cent of (Iraq's) re­fined prod­ucts, but the cen­tral government sends us only 3 per­cent and our re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity is not enough to sat­isfy domestic de­mand," Hawrami said.

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