(Adds statement from Maliki's office)
By Isabel Coles
ARBIL, Iraq Feb 17 Iraqi Kurdistan's prime
minister and top energy official travelled to Baghdad on Monday
to intensify efforts to settle a long-running dispute with the
central government over the region's oil exports via a new
pipeline to Turkey.
Baghdad has threatened to sue Ankara and slash the
autonomous region's share of the national budget if exports go
ahead through the pipeline without its consent.
The pipeline was completed late last year, and oil has since
been pumped through it into storage tanks at Turkey's Ceyhan,
but exports from the Mediterranean port are on hold to give
diplomacy a chance.
Negotiations have carried on for months with little
As Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Minister of
Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami headed for Baghdad, however, one
industry source said he foresaw a breakthrough "in a week or
two", adding, "If it takes any longer than that, there is a
Crude from Kurdistan used to reach world markets through
Baghdad's infrastructure, but exports via that channel dried up
due to a row over payments for oil companies operating in the
Since then, the Kurds have been exporting smaller quantities
by truck across the border whilst building the pipeline to
Turkey and negotiating a multi-billion dollar energy deal with
The landmark deal laid the ground for development of the
infrastructure for Kurdistan to export some 2 million barrels
per day (bpd) of oil to world markets and at least 10 billion
cubic metres per year of gas to Turkey.
A statement issued by the office of Iraqi Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki stressed "the need to resolve pending issues in
the planned meeting between delegations from the (central)
government and the region, and to accelerate approving budget."
The sources said there were some technical issues with the
pipeline, including air pockets, which have been resolved and
that oil was flowing more or less continuously, albeit in small
The Kurdish pipeline ties into an existing network
controlled by Baghdad that links the northern Kirkuk oilfields
to Ceyhan. Both are using the same pumping station, which has
caused some problems.
The Kurds plan to install their own pumping station, but it
has yet to be commissioned and will take several months to put
in place, the sources said.
In Istanbul last week, Barzani and Hawrami met Turkish Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who reiterated his commitment to the
deal with Kurdistan, according to a statement on the Kurdistan
Regional Government's website.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; Editing by
Jane Baird and David Evans)