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US Ambassador to Turkey Ricciardone says Washington seriously warned Ankara, Baghdad and Arbil not to take steps that would disintegrate Iraq

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Francis Ricciardone. 
AA photo

Francis Ricciardone. AA photo

Serkan Demirtaş Serkan Demirtaş serkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

Turkey and Iraq have no choice but to pursue strong ties if they want to optimize the use of Iraq’s resources and export them via Turkey, a top U.S. envoy has said, warning both that failure to do so “could lead to a more violent conflict and disintegration within Iraq.”

“If Turkey and Iraq fail to optimize their economic ties, the failure could be worse than that. There could be a more violent conflict in Iraq and [the chances of] disintegration within Iraq could be [strengthened],” Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, told Ankara bureau chiefs yesterday. “Economic success can hold Iraq together. Failure could support those forces’ attempt to disintegrate. And that would not be good for Turkey, for the U.S. or anybody in the region, I believe.”

Ricciardone’s warning is the strongest public statement from an U.S. official on the ongoing disagreement over Turkish companies’ aggressive attempt to exploit northern Iraqi oil and gas reserves despite the absence of a law between the central and regional government on how to share the hydrocarbon revenues.

Ankara and Baghdad are at odds over Turkey’s direct crude trade with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, with Baghdad calling the trade “smuggling.” Several international companies, including Exxon and Chevron, along with Ankara-based Genel Energy, are carrying out exploration activities in northern Iraq, which also angers the central government. Noting that Turkey, the U.S. and the Iraqi central and regional governments share a single strategic interest in optimizing Iraqi oil and gas outputs to world markets for future generations, the envoy said Iraq was struggling to pass a hydrocarbon law that was vital to both Turkey and the U.S.

“We’d love to see and Turkey would love to see [the provision of] access to not [only] 20 percent of the oil and gas that exists in Iraq, but to 100 percent of the oil and gas in the entire country. We’d love to see Turkish companies profit off that. We like to see Turkish consumers diversify their strategic resources. We would really regret it if Turkey would be limited to 20 percent of the oil and gas of Iraq,” he said. Washington would like to see Turkey become an alternative to the Strait of Hormuz in transporting Iraqi oil and gas to world markets through multiple pipelines, he added. Ricciardone praised Turkish entrepreneurs’ activities and successes in reaching out to the northern Iraqi market but said Turkey should consider all of Iraq.

“So for us, as difficult as it may be to work in this complicated political situation in Baghdad, it seems we have no choice but to have a strong Iraqi-Turkish relationship,” he said.

Implying that Turkey’s reconciliation with Iraq would keep the oil and gas-rich country on the side of the West, the ambassador said: “We are in very close touch with [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki.

We also have very good relations with the KRG. We are saying the same thing to our side: boys and girls, you’ll profit greatly when together; separately there are great risks and dangers.”

February/06/2013

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mara mcglothin

2/6/2013 8:59:25 PM

NAGEYEC The US didn't divide the people, they divided themselves and took the chance to settle their backward grudges against each other. You can't blame the West for that. We tried to help Iraq become democratic, and they wouldn't know freedom if it hit them in the head. They just resorted to their backward tribal mentality of vendetta instead of taking the opportunity for all to be equal.

mara mcglothin

2/6/2013 8:56:59 PM

NAGEYEC Do you not remember when Sadaam's son killed soccer players for losing a game? And what about all those Kurds that Chemical Ali gassed in the North, and the list goes on and on. hmmm I also seem to remember quite a few Iraqi's dancing in the streets and helping pull down the big statue of Sadaam, so there were a few in this "cohesive" society that weren't happy. There wasn't sectarian violence? or we just didn't know about it? or it was controlled by such an evil man?

Murat

2/6/2013 6:33:23 PM

Nagayec certainly has a valid point. Who can claim what is there now is better than Saddam under a UN watch? Iraq before was a bit more than about just Saddam and oppression. Was that the only place where there was oppression in ME? Massive propaganda machinery did its job well. Too well, people still regurgitate selective facts. Democracy requires institutions, one does not come before the other. It is too late for regrets and warnings.

Nageyec Conduz

2/6/2013 4:37:05 PM

Aryeh Rapaport, if the Kurds are as well Sunnis and Shiite, then where do they fit the American classification of Iraqis as Kurds, Sunnis and Shiite? May be Arabs and Kurds could have best described the Iraqis. If using Iraqi people was bad enough for the Americans to defeating Saddam, dividing them into three virtual division such as Kurds, Sunnis and Shiite was only convenient tool to use, but resulted hell for Iraqis. This is the point you have both missed.

John john

2/6/2013 4:26:25 PM

Very clear what the US want. Force artificial Iraq together in the same way UK did in 1920 to keep the oil. US does know if there is peace between Kurds and Turks, it loses its strategic interests in the region. Thus the best way to protect its interests is to keep the Kurds and the Turks away from one another.

Nageyec Conduz

2/6/2013 4:15:57 PM

Aryeh Rapaport, I never discussed Saddam in my comment, nor do I believe that he was good man. In my comment, I clearly implied that there was no sectarian violence in Iraq, where ordinary Iraqis kill each other in their thousands, before the American lead invasion. Probably, you have never been In Iraq, and you probably don't know what the life is like in here. This why both you and US observer's argument is solely revolving Saddam and his brutality. Not what Iraq is currently experiencing.

Al Rashid

2/6/2013 3:50:13 PM

'divide et impera' has always been the mantra of Israeli, US and British foreign policy in the Middle East. Iraq is precisely how these three all want it, in a mess, divided and with the oil still flowing. It is also worth considering, no despot dead or alive could ever have imagined slaughtering, mutilating, murdering or just plain blowing to pieces the number of innocent people this tryptch of hypocrisy and evil have managed to do in the last two decades.

David Cuthell

2/6/2013 3:33:32 PM

The Ambassador's comments are both honest and perhaps selective. He is honest in underlining the US desire to circumvent oil shipping through Hormuz. He is selective is ignoring the American pressure to decentralize production and ownership of the oil. Lastly, he is diplomatic with regard to Iraqi cohesion.

Aryeh Rapaport

2/6/2013 2:54:30 PM

Nageyec, "Iraq was developed country with a cohesive society, with no traces of sectarian violence"' What planet do you live on? Saddam was a Sunni- dictator, killer, rapist- not just of Shia & Kurds but of Sunnis & ordinary Iraqis as well. Maybe you never left Iraq- so you think such leadership behavior is normal - but globally Saddam is a despicable person who no one misses. Iraqis need to make their own future. Kurdish people are mostly considered Muslim ranging Sunni & Shia

US Observer

2/6/2013 2:31:37 PM

Yes it was heaven on Earth Nageyec :/ You can try to re-write history if you want, but those of us that live in reality know what you are claiming was completely false. cohesive society? I guess if if you mean a brutal dictator who had no qualms in mass murdering hundreds of thousands people equates to cohesion, you have a point...
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