Amid ongoing debates over a disagreement between Ankara and Baghdad to export northern Iraq's oil via Turkish markets, Baghdad has offered to build a “federal pipeline” from the Iraqi oil site of Basra to Ceyhan, an energy hub in southern Turkey, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız revealed on Sunday in Ankara.
"In a recent meeting, the Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Karim Luaibi told us that the central government wished to develop a joint energy project with Turkey. Luaibi offered a pipeline that would extend from Basra to the north and Ceyhan and we said we could agree. We will begin the project when our Iraqi counterparts are ready," Yıldız told a TV channel on Sunday.
The Iraqi offer follows earlier comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry who asked Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to abandon unilateral action that does not have the blessing of Baghdad, particularly with regard to an oil pipeline deal with Turkey. The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) reiterated last month that it would press ahead with building its own oil export pipeline to Turkey. Baghdad says it alone has the authority to control the export of the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, while the Kurds say their right to do so is enshrined in Iraq's federal constitution, drawn up following the US-led invasion of 2003.
Underlining the fact that there are Turkish energy and infrastructure projects in all corners of Iraq, Yıldız said: "We have spent $600 million with our partners in the natural gas and oil fields of Iraq's south. Our projects in this region continue.” Crude oil from the Kurdistan region used to be shipped to world markets through the Baghdad-controlled Kirkuk-Yumurtalık pipeline to Turkey, but exports via that channel dried up in December -- from a peak of around 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) -- due to a row with Baghdad over payments. The KRG is already bypassing the federal pipeline network by trucking small quantities of crude oil over the Turkish border in exchange for refined oil products. “The Kirkuk-Yumurtalık oil pipeline could carry only one third of its capacity. We would like to feed this channel with additional oil supply from Iraq. The next step is to expand our cooperation to all parts of Iraqi oilfields,” Yıldız explained. A deal between Ankara and Baghdad envisions that the Kirkuk-Yumurtalık pipeline will carry 70 million tons of crude oil from Iraq to Ceyhan annually.
Oil flow to Yumurtalık had to be suspended a number of times in the past due to sporadic blasts and sabotage by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party. Ankara sees the success of an ongoing settlement process of the decades-old Kurdish issue as key to boosting its role as the major energy corridor of its surrounding region, home to some of world's largest oil and gas resources.
Meanwhile, Yıldız reiterated an anticipated normalization of ties with Israel was “by no means fabricated to open the door for energy transfer deals with Tel Aviv.”