Kurds stick to stand on oil exports despite Baghdad’s warning

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By Fareed Hassan

Azzaman, December 6, 2013

Kurdish authorities have vowed to go ahead with plans to export oil via Turkey despite Baghdad government’s warning of consequences.

The head of the Kurdish regional government Nejerwan al-Barzani has said exporting oil produced within the Kurdish region’s three provinces of Arabil, Sulaimaniya and Dahouk was legal and constitutional.

The Kurds are building a pipeline to Turkey through which they say they can export up to 300,000 barrels a day once it is completed.

They also claim to have the ability to export up to 1 million barrels by 2015.

Husain al-Shahristani, a deputy prime minister, insisted that the Kurds had no constitutional right to export oil on their own.

He has turned down a Kurdish request to take part in negotiations the government intends to carry with Turkey over the issue of Kurdish oil exports.

Shahristani said if the Kurds wanted to take part in the talks, it should only occur at the technical level.

The talks with Turkey, he said, were between two independent countries and the Kurdish region was part of Iraq.

Barzani denied accusations that the Kurds were trying to form their own independent state and were using oil as a weapon to achieve that aim.

However, he said he believed the Kurds did the right thing to develop their own oil fields and start exporting oil on their own.

Shahristani said Baghdad did not object to the principle of Kurds exporting their own oil, but it rejected the notion of Kurds controlling exports and royalties.

He reiterated developing oil and other natural resources in Iraq was the responsibility of the central government in Baghdad.

And he added that oil exports from anywhere in the country must be administered by SOMO, the government’s oil export arm.