Turkey Stands by Kurdish Oil Deal, Seeks to Appease Baghdad
Ankara – Turkey said on Monday it stood by a bilateral oil deal with Iraq’s Kurdistan region that bypassed central government but sought to appease Baghdad by drawing it into the arrangement. Reuters reported Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan signed a multi-billion-dollar energy package last week, infuriating Baghdad which claims sole authority over oil exports and is wary of any move that could extend political autonomy in the region.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz met Iraqi deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, in Baghdad on Sunday to try to mend ties with a federal government which says independent Kurdish oil exports would be illegal. The affair has soured relations between Ankara and Baghdad.
“We stand by the agreement we did with northern Iraq but we hope this can be carried out through a three-way mechanism,” Yildiz told a conference after flying into Arbil, the capital city of the Kurdistan region (KRG). “As Turkey, we are trying to move this forward in a careful and courteous way.”
“We also would like to have the consent of the Central Government of Iraq for the commercial export of oil from the KRG to Turkey and start a trilateral cooperation scheme that will be beneficial to all.” The Turkish-KRG deal has enormous significance for major oil companies as well as for the Kurds and Turkey, which can benefit in domestic supply and onward westward export through the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
“Turkey is trying to follow a balancing act here,” a source close to the talks said. “These are really significant contracts and the Turkish Republic just doesn’t sign deals like this every day. “But Turkey…can’t just look like it’s acting hand-in-hand with the KRG and doesn’t care about Baghdad and that’s never been the case anyway…If Baghdad agrees, great. If they don’t, the exports will nevertheless go ahead, I think.” (Reuters)