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ANKARA BID TO DEFUSE TENSION

Iraqis, Turks to meet amid Kurdish oil dispute

Ankara, December 1, 2013

Iraqi and Turkish energy officials are expected to meet in Baghdad on Sunday after Ankara agreed a package of energy deals with Iraq's autonomous northern region that the central government says are illegal.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz will meet Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, an official in Shahristani's office said, without giving details.

It will be Yildiz's first visit to Iraq since his plane was denied permission to land by Baghdad late last year when he tried to attend an energy conference in Arbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkey's courtship of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has infuriated the central government Baghdad, which says it has sole authority to manage Iraqi energy resources.

Shahristani said on Thursday any energy deal with Arbil would be "an encroachment on the sovereignty of Iraq".

Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan signed a multi-billion-dollar energy package last week, sources close to the deal said on Friday, that will help transform the Iraqi region into an oil and gas powerhouse.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that Ankara and Arbil had "agreed on some trade deals" but had yet to completely finalise them and said that Turkey would seek Baghdad's cooperation on the issue.

Baghdad says Kurdish efforts towards oil independence could lead to the break-up of the country and the dispute has also raised concern in Washington.

Turkey, hungry for energy and dependent on imports for almost all of its needs, says Iraqi Kurdistan's resources will help diversify its energy supplies and reduce its ballooning $60 billion annual energy bill.-Reuters




Tags: Iraq | Turkey | Kurdistan oil dispute |

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