Kurd oil dispute sharpens: Iraq to ‘go to UN’, US warns of ‘serious legal risk’

Ceyhan oil terminal

Ceyhan oil terminal

KT News:

The dispute over Kurdish oil sales has escalated with the Iraq oil minister threatening to appeal to the United Nations, and a US State Department official warning the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Turkey about legal risks.

Speaking in Vienna yesterday, ahead of an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting, Iraq oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaiby said the sales breached UN resolutions and would endanger an annual $15 billion in bilateral trade between Iraq and Turkey. He spoke as a second tanker carrying Kurdish oil departed the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

“What happened in my view was the biggest mistake that has been made by the Kurds and the Turks…and the Iraqi government will take severe measures,” he said.

Shafaaq News today quotes US Deputy State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harff, as saying the export or sale of this oil without the approval of the Iraq federal government exposes those involved to “serious legal risk.” She also said U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Brett McGurk, who is currently on a visit to Iraq, will “push for the resumption of relations between Erbil and Baghdad”.

The KRG maintains that the sales are legitimate under the 2005 Iraq Constitution and has said that revenues will serve to replace budget entitlements that the Iraq central government has been withholding from it.

Last week Kurdistan Regional president Masud Barzani announced that the KRG has signed a 50 year deal with Turkey to export Kurdish oil.

It is still unclear who will buy the oil, which is being piped to Turkey via a new Kurdish pipeline. The destination of the United Emblem tanker, which departed Ceyhan yesterday, is unknown.  The first tanker to leave the port with Kurdish oil is still at sea with its $110 million consignment, although it set sail in May, and currently the United Leadership is off the coast of Morocco. Maritime Executive reports that both the tankers are listed in tanker tracking as ‘For Orders’, indicating that a final buyer of the crude oil has yet to be arranged.

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