Erdoğan threatens to cut off oil flow from Iraq’s Kurdish area over referendum

Erdoğan threatens to cut off oil flow from Iraq’s Kurdish area over referendum

Erdoğan threatens to cut off oil flow from Iraq’s Kurdish area over referendum President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned on Sept. 25 Turkey could cut off the pipeline that carries oil from northern Iraq to the outside world, intensifying pressure on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over its independence referendum.

Voting began on Sept. 25 despite strong opposition from Iraq’s central government and neighboring Turkey and Iran - both with significant Kurdish populations - as well as Western warnings.

Erdoğan said the “separatist” referendum was unacceptable and economic, trade and security counter-measures would be taken.

“There are several measures on the table... We will see through which channels the northern Iraqi regional government will send its oil, or where it will sell it,” he said in a speech.  

“We have the tap. The moment we close the tap, then it’s done,” he added. 

Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day come through the pipeline in Turkey from northern Iraq.

On Sept. 25, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said Ankara would decide on punitive measures against the KRG after talks with Iraq’s central government.

“Our energy, interior and customs ministries are working on [measures]. We are evaluating steps regarding border gates and air space. We will take these steps quickly,” Yıldırım told Turkish broadcasters.

Habur border gate

Earlier the day, local media said Turkey had blocked access to the KRG via the Habur border crossing with Iraq. Ankara’s Customs Minister denied this. 

Customs Minister Bülent Tüfenkci said the Habur border gate with northern Iraq was not closed, but tight controls were imposed on traffic.

However, Erdoğan later said traffic was only being allowed to cross from the Turkish side of the border into Iraq.

Maruf Ari, a 50-year-old truck driver, was one of those who had crossed back into Turkey early on Sept. 25. He said a closure of the gate would ruin his livelihood.

“If the border is closed it will harm all of us. I’m doing this job for 20 years. I’m not making a lot of money. Around 1,000 Turkish Liras [$285] a month. But if the gate is closed, we will go hungry,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.
Shares of flag carrier Turkish Airlines, which has direct flights to northern Iraq, fell nearly 4 percent, underperforming a 1.75 percent decline in the BIST 100 index. Turkey’s lira currency also weakened.