Iraq looks to reopen oil pipeline in bid to rival Kurds
Iraq said Tuesday it was looking to revive a defunct oil pipeline to Turkey as it looks to restore key exports amid a dispute with the Kurds over their independence vote.
Energy Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi asked three state-owned firms “to come up urgently with a mechanism to repair and renovate” the pipeline from the Kirkuk region claimed by both Baghdad and Kurdistan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, officials said in a statement.
The move could help restore a strategic alternative route for the central authorities to rival a parallel Kurdish pipeline that also runs from the region’s oilfields to Ceyhan.
The Iraqi pipeline was cut off after the Islamic State group seized swathes of the country in 2014, halting a flow of oil to Turkey of up to 400,000 barrels a day.
Both Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurdistan region lay claim to Kirkuk province, with each side controlling three of the area’s lucrative oilfields.
The Kurdish pipeline — opened in 2013 — has a capacity of 600,000 barrels per day and accounts for some half of the autonomous region’s overall oil exports.
Oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP the plan to revive the pipeline was made possible after government forces recaptured areas it crosses from IS.
Iraqi energy expert Ruba Husari said the move showed Iraq’s “determination” to “reverse the situation created by the Kurds over the past few years”.
Baghdad and Arbil have been locked in a stand-off since voters in Kurdistan overwhelmingly opted two weeks ago for independence in a referendum that the central government slammed as illegal.
Iraq has cut Kurdistan off from the outside world by severing air links to the region, while neighbouring Turkey and Iran have threatened to close their borders and block oil exports.