Oil tension mounts between Kurds and Baghdad

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By Fareed Hassan

Azzaman, February 11, 2013

Tension over oil development and exports are mounting between Kurds in the north and the central government in Baghdad.

The tension is no longer economic, according to Arshad al-Salihi of the parliamentary oil and energy commission. “The crisis and the rhetoric accompanying the exploration of oil, work of foreign oil firms in the (Kurdish) region are being politicized.”

Salihi said both sides were to blame for the rising tension.

The Kurds, who currently control three provinces in northern Iraq, are proceeding ahead with plans to develop their own oil without recourse to Baghdad.

They have even gone as far as planning to construct their own pipeline to carry their crude to international markets via Turkey, the move that has angered the authorities in Baghdad.

Salihi, a Kurd himself, said he did not see any problem with the Kurds having their own pipeline carrying their own oil so long as the steps were taken in agreement with the central government in Baghdad.

But most of the steps and projects the Kurds have undertaken to develop oil fields in their region have been done without Baghdad’s approval.

And recently, the Kurdish regional minister of natural resources, Ashti Horami, said his ministry would soon strike a deal with a consortium of British oil firms to help with the region’s nascent but mushrooming oil industry

The Kurds say they have developed enough fields to enable produce up to 250,000 barrels a day with plans to boost output up to 1 million barrels a day in a few years.

Foreign oil firms are reported to have invested billions of dollars in the region so far.

There are 50 foreign oil firms working in the region among them a couple of western majors.