Iraq to demand Kurdish oil money from Turkey

Iraq to demand Kurdish oil money from Turkey

Serkan Demirtaş
Iraq to demand Kurdish oil money from Turkey

‘Turkey is Iraq’s door to reach out to Europe,’ says Minister al-Jaafari. AA Photo

A senior Iraqi official has expressed the new Iraqi government’s intention to demand the money collected in a Turkish bank over the Kurdistan regional government’s unilateral sale of oil through Turkey that sparked a row between Ankara and Baghdad during Nouri al-Maliki’s rule.

“We know that our money is in safe hands. We have not raised this issue this time but it will be on the top of our agenda in our upcoming meeting with the Turkish side,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told a group of journalists Nov. 7, on the last day of a three-day visit to Turkey. Al-Jaafari was the first senior Iraqi official to pay a visit to Ankara since Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi formed a new government. The visit was described by both countries as the beginning of a new era in bilateral ties after a long period of tension due to al-Maliki’s sectarian policies.

Turkey’s deal with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to deepen energy cooperation and the sale of oil produced in northern Iraq to world markets through Turkey chilled ties between Ankara and Baghdad, prompting al-Maliki to file a complaint against Turkey at the Paris-based International Commerce Court (ICC). Because Baghdad and Arbil failed to reach a compromise over the sale of oil and revenue sharing, Ankara’s move to allow the sale of oil has been seen as violation of international law and the Iraqi Constitution.

Turkey, on the other hand, justified its actions with recourse to the Iraqi Constitution, which stipulates the distribution of oil revenues between the central and regional government in the proportion of 83-17.

Reports suggested that the KRG could export oil in 12 different shipments but the amount of money blocked at Turkey’s Halkbank is not known.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will visit Baghdad soon for a high-level meeting, al-Jaafari said, adding that al-Abadi would conduct a return visit in coming months. The two countries are planning to revitalize a high-level strategic cooperation council where opportunities to intensify cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, transportation and others will be explored.

‘No oil crisis with Turkey’

Al-Jaafari’s statement that Iraq would demand money from Turkey does not indicate unease between Ankara and Baghdad. To the contrary, the top Iraqi diplomat strongly underlined that the new government saw Turkey as a key partner in the region when it comes to transporting oil and natural gas to European markets. “Turkey is Iraq’s door to reach out to Europe. Iraq is to produce oil and natural gas and Turkey to become the main transit route to transfer them to Europe,” he said.

However, al-Jaafari also underlined his government’s demand that all oil and natural gas sales be made within the parameters of the Iraqi Constitution, which gives the sole authority to the central government in dealing with the national reserves of the country.

“We move within the frame of the Iraqi Constitution. In the past, there were extraordinary conditions. But now there is no crisis between Turkey and Iraq on this issue,” he said, reiterating that this issue with Turkey was now over.

“Iraq’s oil and natural gas are riches belonging to all Iraqis. The central government has the control over all of them with the task of selling and distributing revenues to federal regions in the proportion of their population,” he said. 

Al-Jaafari stressed again and again that the oil issue was “the internal matter of Iraq” and would be solved between Baghdad and Arbil.

A meeting between Iraqi President Fuad Masum and KRG President Masoud Barzani took place on Nov. 5 in Arbil with the objective of finding a solution to the current problems between the central and regional governments.

Turkey-Iraq ties must be used for peace

Al-Jaafari’s three-day visit was important from various dimensions, particularly in terms of regional necessities. At a time when the international community has been actively and militarily mobilized to defeat the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a fresh rapprochement between Turkey and Iraq was inevitable. Both countries are suffering from the threat of terrorism, and al-Jaafari said Iraq was seeking to enhance its cooperation with Turkey against the menace.  

It is of great significance for Turkey and Iraq to develop a sound, sustainable and fruitful relationship for not only the good sake of their people but of all the Middle East. Strong bonds between Turkey and Iraq would establish a good first step in the international campaign to defeat ISIL terrorism and help stabilize the entire region.