Turkey backs off Kurdistan energy deals under pressure
Ankara, December 1, 2013
Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan have yet to completely finalize a package of energy deals, and Ankara will seek Baghdad's co-operation on the issue, the Turkish foreign ministry said on Saturday after sources said the contracts had been signed.
Sources told Reuters on Friday that Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan signed a multi-billion-dollar energy package this week that will help transform the semi-autonomous region into an oil and gas powerhouse but infuriate a central Baghdad government wary of increasing Kurdish autonomy.
"During Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani's visit to Ankara on November 27, (Turkey and Kurdistan) agreed on some trade deals that are in line with the Iraqi Constitution, regarding energy cooperation with KRG," the Turkish foreign minister's office said in a statement.
"However the related process has not yet been completed. Our desire and choice is to take up the issue in a three-party framework and finalize the issue in a way to serve the mutual interests of our people," it added.
Separately, Turkish sources told Reuters that Turkish private jets were not being allowed into Iraqi Kurdistan ahead of an energy conference in Arbil, although commercial planes were landing without problems.
"At the moment we are told that Iraq is not allowing private Turkish jets to land. We are hoping for the issue to be sorted in the coming hours," a Turkish energy source said, adding that it was considered as an attempt to hamper the oil conference in Arbil, which is due to start on Monday.
Iraqi sources said this was not the case.
"It is baseless. The skies of both countries are open for the planes of the other," the head of Iraq's civil aviation authority Nasser Bandar said.
The energy move follows months of negotiations and was kept secret for several days, apparently because of its sensitivity. Baghdad says any independent Kurdish oil exports are illegal and that it has the sole authority to manage Iraqi oil.
For energy-hungry Turkey, dependent on imports for almost all of its needs, exploiting Iraqi Kurdistan's rich hydrocarbon resources will help diversify its energy supplies and reduce the country's ballooning $60 billion energy bill.
Ankara's relations with the Kurds of northern Iraq were long encumbered by Turkey's battle with Kurdish separatists on its own soil. But in recent years trade and political relations have flourished, both sides benefiting from commerce across the frontier.-Reuters