BAGHDAD – Agence France-Presse / Reuters
Baghdad summoned Turkey’s chargé d’affaires Jan. 12 over moves by Iraq’s Kurdish region to sell oil independently via Ceyhan, saying the move was a violation of its constitution as prime minister Nuri al-Maliki warned Turkey on not ‘interfering’ on the issue.
Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, the top official responsible for energy affairs, summoned Efe Ceylan over the announcement by the autonomous Kurdish region last week that its first shipment of crude oil sent directly to Turkey had gone on sale, with more expected to follow.
“Iraq considers the export of oil through its international borders without government approval as a violation,” Shahristani said in a statement following the meeting with the Turkish diplomat.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said last week that crude had begun to flow to Turkey and exports were expected to start at the end of this month and then rise in February and March.
The minister said Turkish officials had prevented representatives from Iraq’s oil ministry from overseeing the quantities of oil being delivered and exported from the Kurdish region.
“The Iraqi government holds Turkey legally responsible on this subject, and reserves the right to demand resultant losses,” Shahristani said.
Baghdad’s summoning of Ceylan is just the latest chapter in a long-running tussle between the federal government and the Kurdistan region over natural resources.
PM threatens Kurdish region with cutting funds
Meanwhile, Maliki threatened on Jan. 12 to cut central government funding for Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region if the Kurds pursued a drive to pipe oil exports to Turkey without Baghdad’s approval.
“This is a constitutional violation which we will never allow, not for the (autonomous Kurdistan) region nor for the Turkish government,” Maliki told Reuters in an interview.
He reiterated Baghdad’s insistence that only the central government has the authority to manage Iraq’s energy resources. He also took the occasion for warning once moreAnkara for its cooperation with KRG.
“Turkey must not interfere in an issue that harms Iraqi sovereignty,” Maliki said.
The central government and the Kurds differ over how to interpret the constitution’s references to oil and how revenues should be shared. The Kurdish share was set at 17 percent after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, although the Kurds frequently complain that they get less than that.
On Jan. 10, Iraq’s Oil Ministry expressed “deep regret and astonishment” over plans announced by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to begin pumping oil to Turkey without central government approval.