Washington concerned over Arbil’s oil exports, says spokeswoman

Washington concerned over Arbil’s oil exports, says spokeswoman

Washington concerned over Arbil’s oil exports, says spokeswoman

State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki (C). AFP Photo

Washington is concerned over the export of northern Iraqi Kurdish oil to global markets via Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said.

“Our position has long been that we don’t support exports without the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi government, and certainly we do have concerns about the impact of those [exports] continuing,” Psaki said during a press briefing May 22.

Earlier in the day, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız announced that 1 million barrels of Kurdish Iraqi crude oil was being loaded onto a tanker in Ceyhan, without specifying the names of buyers.

When asked about the minister’s statement, Psaki said, “Our most immediate concern is for Iraq’s stability,” asserting the country would discuss the implications with “our partners in Turkey and in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.”

“Iraq is facing a difficult situation. We’ve been clear that it’s important for all sides to take actions to help the country pull together and avoid actions that might further exacerbate divisions and tensions. So we’ll be in touch with both sides,” she said.

The sale is likely to infuriate Baghdad, which has been at loggerheads with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the sharing of oil revenues, and denounced Turkey’s courtship of the Kurds, warning that steps toward Kurdish economic independence could threaten Iraq’s sovereignty.

After five months of talks and little progress, however, tanks at Ceyhan are full with 2.5 million barrels of Kurdish oil, and Turkey decided there was no point in further obstructing exports, sources familiar with the sale told Reuters.

Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) issued a statement late May 22, calling the loading of oil from Ceyhan “an illegitimate deed of the Turkish authorities.”

It said both the Oil Ministry and SOMO “reserve the right to take all legal measures against any company or entity” that loaded Iraqi crude from Ceyhan without Baghdad’s approval.

In late 2013, Iraq’s Oil Ministry instructed a U.S. law firm to pursue legal action against any buyer of Kurdish oil.