ARBIL, Iraq Feb 7 Iraqi Kurdistan will press
ahead with building its own oil export pipeline to Turkey, the
region's energy minister said on Thursday, despite U.S.
objections due to fears the project could lead to the break-up
The autonomous Kurdish region is locked in a turf war with
the central government in Baghdad over how to exploit Iraq's
hydrocarbon riches and divide up the proceeds.
Baghdad says it alone has the authority to control exports
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 U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
"We want to have an oil pipeline to ourselves," Iraqi
Kurdish Minister for Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami said at a
news conference in the regional capital Arbil. "It is currently
in the works and we will continue until it is completed."
Crude from the Kurdistan region used to be shipped to world
markets through a Baghdad-controlled 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 over payments
The United States says the solution lies in a national
hydrocarbons law that has been delayed for years by a power
struggle between Iraq's Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish factions,
which has intensified since U.S. troops withdrew a year ago.
"The Iraqis have been struggling to pass a hydrocarbons law.
It is very important that they succeed in that," U.S. Ambassador
to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone said in Ankara on Tuesday.
Reluctant to wait, Kurdistan has been looking to
resource-hungry Turkey for answers. A broad energy partnership
between them ranging from exploration to export has been in the
works since last year.
Majority Sunni Turkey's deepening ties with the Kurdistan
region in northern Iraq have heightened tensions between Ankara
and the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.
"If Turkey and Iraq fail to optimise their economic
relations... There could be more violent conflict in Iraq and
the forces of disintegration within Iraq could be emboldened,"
Kurdistan is already bypassing the federal pipeline network
by trucking small quantities of crude over the Turkish border in
exchange for refined oil products.
"The issue is that we are entitled to 17 percent of
(Iraq's)refined products, but the central government sends us
only 3 percent and our refining capacity is not enough to
satisfy domestic demand," Hawrami said.
(Reporting by Isabel Coles in Arbil and Nick Tattersall in
Ankara; Editing by Anthony Barker)