* Fourth major Kurdish oil cargo delivered
* Vessel reappears off Israel after disabling satellite
* Israel's Ashkelon port took delivery of 1 mln barrels in
* Israel has openly voiced support for Kurdish independence
(Adds expanded pipeline to Turkey, recasts)
By Julia Payne
LONDON, Aug 21 An Iraqi Kurdish crude oil tanker
has reappeared off the coast of Israel having offloaded its
cargo, ship tracking data on Reuters showed, in the latest sign
the autonomous region is finding buyers for its oil in defiance
It was not possible to determine who bought the oil or where
it was sent to, but crude originating from Iraqi Kurdistan was
delivered to Israel in June even though many Middle Eastern
states refuse to trade with the country.
A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
Ministry of Natural Resources did not respond to phone calls and
emails seeking comment. The KRG has previously denied selling
oil to Israel "directly or indirectly".
Baghdad has actively tried to block independent oil sales
from Iraqi Kurdistan and cut the autonomous region's budget in
January over the dispute, despite complaints from the KRG it
needs funds to fight the radical militants of the Islamic State.
But the latest delivery means the KRG has delivered at least
four large cargoes or around $400 million worth of crude since
May, when it first started major exports via the Turkish port of
Ceyhan that is connected to a new pipeline from the region.
In the latest delivery the Kamari tanker switched off its
satellite transponder on Aug. 17 before reappearing near Israel
two days later having offloaded its cargo.
Growing oil sales could increase the KRG's economic
independence from Baghdad and bolster their push to form a
separate Kurdish state.
On Thursday Turkish officials and industry sources said the
capacity of the Kurdish pipeline has been upgraded to 200,000
barrels per day (bpd) with plans to soon increase it up to
250,000 bpd, doubling its previous capacity.
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.
Baghdad has successfully blocked one Kurdish tanker that has
now been anchored off Morocco for more than two months, while
another was stopped from delivering to a refinery in the United
So far, 7.8 million barrels of Kurdish oil have flowed
through the independent pipeline of which 6.5 million have been
loaded onto tankers. Including the latest tanker more than 60
percent of that oil has now been successfully delivered.
The 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 Islamic State.
The United States and several European countries have
started to supply arms and ammunition to help the Iraqi Kurds.
United States air strikes have helped Kurdish forces push back
Islamic State in the past two weeks.
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.
The Suezmax tanker, Kamari, which can carry up to 1 million
barrels of crude, has made two deliveries of Kurdish crude into
the eastern Mediterranean since the start of August, tanker
tracking data on Reuters shows.
It was partially loaded with Kurdish crude when it turned
off its satellite transponder on Aug. 17 as it sailed near
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. When it reappeared on Aug. 19, about 30
kilometres off the coast of Israel, its cargo had been
offloaded, based on how high the ship was sitting in the water.
The tanker first loaded its latest cargo of 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
just under 600,000 barrels of Kurdish crude that discharged at
Croatia's Omisalj port at the weekend. The company has
exploration and production assets in Iraqi Kurdistan.
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.
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, again indicating it had offloaded its cargo.
In June a tanker carrying 1 million barrels of Kurdish oil
sailed from Ceyhan that was delivered into Israel's Ashkelon
port after first being transferred at sea to another vessel.
The KRG has repeatedly declined to identify buyers of its
oil or say who is helping to coordinate the sales.
(Writing by David Sheppard; Editing by Michael Urquhart)