Iraq’s PM Maliki threatens to cut funds if Kurds pipe oil to Turkey

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki threatened on Sunday 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 (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. “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 US-led invasion in 2003, although the Kurds frequently complain that they get less than that.

Maliki said the Kurds had not met their budgeted commitment to export 250,000 barrels per day of oil, with the revenue going to the national treasury, but that so far the government had not retaliated by reducing their share of the budget. “We did not do that as we did not want to affect the Kurdish people and we were looking to find acceptable solutions…that would preserve national unity and the national wealth, but this year the situation looks difficult,” Maliki declared.

Referring to a dispute over the costs of oil companies operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, he said: “We have been telling these companies…give us the oil and we will pay your costs, but they did not deliver, so there will be no payments.” Maliki said it was unfair to expect Baghdad to pay the oil firms’ costs, plus the Kurds’ 17 percent budget share, when the oil revenue was not being channeled through the government.

In October 2012, the Kurds agreed to export an average of 250,000 bpd in 2013 if Baghdad paid the operators in the region. As the wrangling went on, the Kurds stopped pumping oil via the Baghdad-controlled pipeline to Turkey, instead exporting smaller quantities by truck and taking the revenue directly.

Iraqi Kurdistan has prospered over the past decade, largely escaping the violence unleashed in the rest of the country after the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Kurdish leaders say they prefer the region to remain part of a federal Iraq, rather than seeking secession, but oil is a highly sensitive issue in volatile relations with Baghdad.

Companies that have risked exploring for oil in Iraqi Kurdistan had welcomed its plans to pipe oil to Turkey as a signal they might begin to generate export income from their investments, despite Baghdad’s objections. Those companies include Gulf Keystone, Genel Energy , Norway’s DNO, Hungary’s MOL and Britain’s Petroceltic and Afren. 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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