Iraq to cut Turkish cooking oil imports due political tensions

Iraq to cut Turkish cooking oil imports due political tensions

BAGHDAD - Reuters
Iraq to cut Turkish cooking oil imports due political tensions

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. AFP Photo

Iraq plans to reduce government imports of cooking oil from Turkey due to political tensions between the two countries, according to a trade ministry official and the newspaper al-Bayina al-Jadida.

A trade ministry spokesman said the administration will gradually cut imports of Turkish cooking oil that it supplies for free to the population under a food rationing program.

“The plan is to replace Turkish oil with locally produced oil and oil from other countries,” he said, without indicating the reason for replacing Turkey with other suppliers.

Baghdad-based newspaper al-Bayina al-Jadida said the measure was meant as a protest against the deployment of Turkish troops in northern Iraq.

Turkey says the forces are protecting its military personnel training Iraqi militia to fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants. Turkey last week said it withdrew some forces, following Iraq’s complaints, without committing to a complete pull-out.

Turkey has been supplying all the cooking oil for the Iraqi trade ministry’s food rationing program for several years, the ministry spokesman said.

Turkish cooking oil imports by the Iraqi private sector are not impacted by the decision, he said, without specifying the volumes imported by the government each year.

The rationing program provides all Iraqis with food items every month, including sugar, flour, cooking oil and rice, in portions that vary according to family size.

Iraq’s own production of cooking oil should increase next year as old factories belonging to the industry ministry will be refurbished, Industry Minister Mohammed al-Daraji told a press conference in Baghdad on Dec. 24.

Acting Trade Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani discussed the possibility of buying cooking oil from Armenia instead of Turkey at a meeting with the Armenian ambassador, Karen Krikorian, in Baghdad last week, the ministry spokesman said.

An official at the Armenian embassy in Baghdad confirmed the meeting took place without giving further details.