LONDON Nov 17 The most senior energy
officials from the Kurdish region of Iraq and from the central
government were due to meet on Thursday to try and resolve a
spat over a major oil deal involving U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil
Kurdish Regional Government Natural Resources Minister Ashti
Hawrami and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for
energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, were due to meet at the
sidelines of a conference in Turkey, a source familiar with the
The two sides have been at loggerheads since the Kurds
announced last week that Exxon had signed a deal to explore in
Baghdad, which considers such contracts illegal, threatened
to cancel Exxon's licences in the south of the country in
Shahristani declined to take questions from reporters in
Istanbul, and the semi-autonomous Kurdish government also
However, a Kurdish representative in the central government
said he expected a solution to the impasse.
"I don't believe that the central government of Iraq will
cancel any signed contracts or contracts that are already in
place, and particularly a contract with Exxon Mobil," Deputy
Prime Minister Ross Nouri Shawis told Reuters in an interview in
"Generally, there is a majority who wants to resolve this
problem, but of course there are other anti views, and this is
normal with any topic."
In recent years, Shahristani has been one of the most vocal
critics of Kurdistan issuing licences to oil companies.
Exxon has not commented on the deal or on the threat of
cancelling its contract to develop Iraq's 8.7-billion-barrel
West Qurna Phase One oilfield in the south.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc had also held talks with the
Kurds about potential investments over the past year, several
officials and oil executives said.
Two sources said the Anglo-Dutch oil giant had been in talks
to join Exxon in the contracts it signed but pulled out in
However, sources familiar with the companies' thinking said
Shell remained interested in investing in Kurdistan.
Had Shell signed the deal to invest in Kurdistan, it could
have derailed a $17 billion gas deal with the Iraqi government
that cleared its last major hurdle on Tuesday after it was
approved by Baghdad's council of ministries.
The Kurds argue that the Iraqi constitution allows them to
sign oil contracts and say Shahristani's objection to the deals
reflects opposition to Kurdish autonomy.
Some in Baghdad argue that a decentralised system of oil
licensing could be chaotic and lead to a lack of transparency