(Repeats FEB 20 story to additional subscribers, no change to text)
ARBIL, Iraq, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Kurdistan has not agreed to export crude via Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO), a spokesman for the autonomous region’s government said on Thursday, contradicting earlier comments by a top energy official in Baghdad.
Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani said in a televised interview late on Wednesday that the Kurds had agreed to export through SOMO, which would have removed a major sticking point between them over oil exports.
Kurdistan’s prime minister and top energy official travelled to Baghdad earlier this week, intensifying efforts to settle the long-running dispute over exports of oil from the region via a new independent pipeline to Turkey.
But Kurdistan Regional Government spokesman Safeen Dizayee said on Thursday that was not the case. “Absolutely we have not reached any agreement to export oil via SOMO. The dialogue and discussions are still underway”.
Dizayee described the talks as “useful” and said Kurdistan now awaited a written response from Baghdad to unspecified proposals made by the Kurdish delegation.
Baghdad has repeatedly threatened to sue Ankara and slash Kurdistan’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 progress. (Reporting by Isabel Coles; editing by Jane Baird)