Turkey backs Iraq on oil after Kurdish vote

The government of Turkey said it will deal exclusively with the Iraqi government on oil exports after voters in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq supported independence in a controversial referendum.


Assurance from Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of support for Baghdad followed threats before the vote to close the pipeline that carries crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan across Turkey to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.


About 72% of eligible voters participated in the referendum on the 25th September, which supported negotiations leading to separation from Iraq by nearly 93%.


Mr Yildirim told Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in a telephone conversation on the 28th September that Turkey would deal only with Iraq on exports and that Iraq had “support of his country for all decisions.”


Shutdown of the pipeline across Turkey would block shipment of as much as 650,000 b/d of crude, sales of which are crucial to Iraqi Kurdistan.


The Kurdish Regional Government, debts of which have grown to an estimated US$20 billion during the three-year slump in crude-oil prices, lists the absence of revenue-sharing promised in the Iraqi constitution among its grievances against Baghdad.


Meanwhile on the 27th September, the Iraqi parliament said Abadi should use military force to reclaim the region around giant Kirkuk oil field in northern Iraq.


Kurdish Peshmerga forces have controlled the city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas since 2014, when they defeated Islamic State insurgents after soldiers of the Iraqi military fled.


The Iraqi segment of the northern export pipeline between Kirkuk and the Turkish border is idle. But two other pipelines now connect Kurdish oil fields with the pipeline at Fishkhabur on the border.


Turkey and the central Iraqi government were joined in their opposition to the referendum by Iran. Turkey and Iran have large Kurdish populations and histories of clashes with Kurdish militants.


The United Nations also opposed the referendum.