* Iraq says Turkey rejects KRG export pipelines
* Baghdad, Kurdistan locked in long oil dispute
* Turkey still delaying KRG gas import license
By Ahmed Rasheed
BAGHDAD, Feb 25 Turkey has told Iraq it will
reject any extension of oil and gas pipelines from Kurdistan
without the approval of the Baghdad government, Iraq's oil
minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi was quoted as saying by the state
media network on Monday.
Iraq's Arab-led central government and the Kurdistan
regional government (KRG), run by ethnic Kurds, are in a
long-running dispute over how to exploit the country's crude
reserves and divide the revenues.
Baghdad says it alone has the authority to control export 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.
"Turkey has officially informed Iraq it rejects extending
oil and gas export pipelines from the Kurdistan region to pass
through Turkey without approval from federal government," the
network quoted the minister as saying.
The Turkish energy ministry declined to comment on the
Kurdistan's Minister for Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami
said earlier this month the autonomous region was pressing ahead
with plans to build its own oil export pipeline to Turkey,
despite objections from the United States, which fears the
project could lead to the break-up of Iraq.
Resource-hungry Turkey has heavily courted Iraqi Kurds,
straining ties with the Iraqi central government.
Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki's media advisor Ali
al-Moussawi said Turkey's rejection of the pipeline would help
enhance bilateral relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which
have deteriorated over the past year.
"The government welcomes Turkey's move, which will
significantly help to stablise the region and also strengthen
relations between central government and Kurdish region,"" Ali
Ankara has been locked in a war of words with Maliki, a
Shi'ite, since December 2011, when he ordered the arrest of his
Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who took refuge in
Kurdistan before fleeing to Turkey.
GAS LICENSE DELAY
Iraqi Kurdistan halted oil exports through the
Baghdad-controlled Iraq-Turkey pipeline in December in a dispute
over payments to oil companies operating in the autonomous
In early January, Kurdistan began exporting crude oil
directly to world markets through Turkey, further angering
Baghdad, which threatened action against the region and foreign
oil companies working there to stop "illegal" crude exports.
A broad energy partnership between Turkey and Iraqi
Kurdistan ranging from exploration to export has been in the
works since last year.
Amid uncertainty over the detail and timing of the deal,
Turkey's energy watchdog EPDK on Friday again delayed a decision
on whether to award a license for Turkish firm Siyah Kalem to
import gas from Kurdistan.
Siyah Kalem had sought extra time from Turkey's Energy
Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) for its application due to
difficulties in reaching agreement with the northern Iraqi
administration. It was given until the end of 2013.
Turkish officials initially indicated that they thought a
purchase agreement signed with the KRG was legally sufficient to
allow imports into Turkey. But officials later confirmed any
such agreement would need to be approved by Baghdad.