Baghdad sues Ankara over shipments of Kurdish oil

The Iraqi central government has announced that it plans to take legal action against Turkey over a shipment of oil from the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq in a statement from Iraq’s Oil Ministry on Friday.

The first shipment of oil from the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq has been shipped to Europe, according to a statement from the autonomous region on Friday.

This has created concern for the US, which does not publicly support exports without the approval of Iraq’s federal government, according to US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, speaking to the press on Friday in Washington, D.C.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said sales from the Turkish port of Ceyhan would continue despite opposition from the federal government in Baghdad, which had threatened legal action against any company involved in “smuggling” Iraqi oil.

“A tanker loaded with over 1 million barrels of crude oil departed last night from Ceyhan towards Europe,” read the KRG statement. “This is the first of many such sales of oil exported through the newly constructed pipeline in the Kurdistan region.”

The statement added that the oil revenue would be treated as part of the region’s share of the Iraqi national budget, which Baghdad has partially withheld since the start of the year as punishment for the Kurds’ moves to export crude independently. It did not specify the buyer or provide additional details regarding the completion of the sale.

The revenue from the sale was deposited into an account of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank. The KRG said it remained open to negotiations with Baghdad and would comply with United Nations obligations by setting aside 5 percent of the revenue in a separate account for reparations for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Friday that the first cargo was sold in to the Mediterranean spot crude market.

In 2009, the northern Kurdish region attempted to ship its oil to the international market via a pipeline controlled by Baghdad connected to Ceyhan; however, the shipments were halted amidst payment disputes. Last year, the KRG began building a separate pipeline to Ceyhan, skirting Baghdad’s control. Iraq has the fourth-largest proven oil reserves in the world, and oil revenues account for just under 95 percent of the country’s budget.

The shipment has created concern in Washington. “We don’t support exports without the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi government, and certainly we do have concerns about the impact of those continuing,” said US State Department Spokesperson Psaki.

“Our most immediate concern is for Iraq’s stability. We’ve had a longstanding position on this issue; as you know, that has not changed. And Iraq is facing a difficult situation. We’ve been clear that it’s important for all sides to take actions to help the country pull together and avoid actions that might further exacerbate divisions and tensions. So we’ll be in touch with both sides.”

Psaki added that the State Department had not spoken to Baghdad regarding the matter, but that they would likely be in touch soon.


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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