* Tanker with Kurdish crude appeared twice close to Israel
* Israel's Ashkelon port took delivery of 1 mln barrels in
* Israel has openly voiced support for Kurdish independence
By Julia Payne
LONDON, Aug 20 A tanker carrying crude oil from
Iraqi Kurdistan reappeared unladen on Aug. 19 about 30
kilometres off the coast of Israel, ship tracking data on
This is the second time the Kamari has appeared in the area
in the last two weeks carrying Kurdish oil.
The tanker Kamari was partly laden north of Egypt's Sinai on
Aug. 17, tracking showed, before it turned off its satellite
transponder until early on Aug. 19. It was not possible to
determine where the oil had been delivered to or who the buyer
A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
Ministry of Natural Resources did not immediately respond to
phone calls and emails seeking comment on Wednesday. The KRG has
previously denied selling oil to Israel "directly or
The tanker loaded the Kurdish crude at the Turkish port of
Ceyhan around Aug. 8, and made a partial delivery to Croatia via
a ship-to-ship transfer last week.
Hungary's MOL Group said on Monday that it had purchased
80,000 tonnes, just under 600,000 barrels, of Kurdish crude,
which discharged at Croatia's Omisalj port at the weekend. The
company has exploration and production assets in Kurdistan.
Iraq's central government in Baghdad has repeatedly called
independent Kurdish exports "smuggling", saying only state
marketer SOMO has the right to sell Iraqi oil. The KRG says the
Iraqi constitution allows it to sell oil independently of
Since the KRG began exporting major volumes via its
pipeline, Baghdad has actively tried to block sales and has so
far been successful in stopping one to Morocco and another to
the United States. Baghdad has also cut the Kurds out of the
country's budget since January.
Despite the setbacks, an increasing number of cargoes are
now finding buyers.
The loss of funds and limited revenues from its oil sales
come at a crucial moment for Iraq as the Kurdish armed forces,
known as peshmerga, have become the main body able to
effectively combat the advance of extremist Sunni fighters of
the Islamic Caliphate.
The United States and several EU countries have either
started or have pledged to supply arms and ammunition to help
the Iraqi Kurds. United States air strikes have helped Kurdish
forces push back the Islamic State in the past two weeks.
PREVIOUS TANKER MOVEMENTS
Two weeks ago, the same 1 million barrel tanker loaded
Kurdish oil at Ceyhan before sailing to a point just under 200
km (125 miles) off the Israeli and Egyptian coasts.
Reuters AIS Live ship tracking showed the ship was fully
loaded, based on its draft in the water. After turning its
satellite tracking off on Aug. 1, the ship reappeared four days
later sitting far higher in the water - indicating it had
unloaded its cargo of disputed oil.
It was not possible to determine which port the oil aboard
the Kamari had been delivered to or who the buyer was. In June a
cargo of Kurdish oil that sailed from Ceyhan aboard the United
Emblem Suezmax tanker was delivered into Israel after being
transferred at sea to another ship.
Israel's prime minister and several officials openly called
for the recognition of an independent Kurdistan this summer,
though a Kurdish diplomat later played down coordination between
the two countries.
In June, the SCF Altai tanker delivered 1 million barrels of
Kurdish crude to Israel's Ashkelon port for an unknown buyer. It
was the first successful delivery of Kurdish oil from the
region's new pipeline to Turkey, though the KRG denied selling
oil to Israel directly or indirectly.
(Additional reporting by David Sheppard; Editing by Michael