Turkey’s thirst for Kurdistan oil
raises tensions with Baghdad to new peakErdogan announces discussion of terms of energy partnership
with Iraqi Kurds in first public confirmation of project that could aggravate
tensions in powder keg region.
No article in Iraq constitution can prevent this tradeMiddle East Online ANKARA:
Turkey is discussing the terms of an
energy partnership with Iraqi Kurds, the country's prime minister said Friday in
the first public confirmation of a project that could aggravate tensions in the
powder keg region.
Analysts have said the move -- aimed at securing
affordable oil and gas supplies to fuel Turkey's rapid economic growth -- also
risks damaging ties with the United States, its major ally.
We are in the process of striking a trade
agreement with them (Iraqi Kurds)," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in
an interview with the CNN-Turk television.
Referring to a Baghdad-controlled
oil pipeline to Turkey that operates well below its capacity to transport 70.9
million tonnes a year, he said the aim was to "make the existing pipeline more
He suggested that it might be extended with
multiple oil and gas pipelines.
The partnership threatens to worsen a long-running
dispute between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq
over how to exploit the country's energy wealth.
It is also raising eyebrows in Washington, where
there are concerns that it could tip the volatile country towards disintegration
and push an increasingly isolated Baghdad into Iran's embrace.
Erdogan dismissed the concerns and said the
Kurdish regional government had a right under the Iraqi constitution to use part
of its energy resources with whichever country it chooses.
Why did northern Iraq feel the need to make such
an agreement with us? ... Because they cannot agree with (Iraqi Prime Minister)
Maliki," he said.
There is no article in the (Iraqi) constitution
that can prevent (the Kurdish regional government) from making this trade
contract with us."
Erdogan hailed Turkey's energy cooperation with
Iraqi Kurds as "win-win" for both sides.
Ankara has been at loggerheads with the Iraqi
government over a number of issues, including Turkey's refusal to extradite
fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and the burgeoning energy ties with
The central Iraqi government has so far blocked
Turkish efforts to step up their presence in northern Iraq.
In November, Baghdad blocked Turkish national
energy firm TPAO from bidding for an oil exploration contract, a decision which
Erdogan had said was not "smart business".
And in December, Baghdad barred a plane carrying
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz from landing in Arbil as he was reportedly
on his way to seal the much-speculated energy deal.