Turkey cannot remain indifferent to a blossoming energy market in Iraq's north and will not exert extra effort to coax parties who dislike this fact, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Monday in one of the minister's most stern statements recently Today`s Zaman reported.
"What is more natural than us looking after our interests in energy cooperation with the local government in Iraq's north? ... Some countries may not approve of this but we are not considering a halt in investments in this regard," Yıldiz told a private TV channel in İstanbul. Turkey has recently ramped up its energy cooperation with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq's north. The broad energy partnership between the two ranges from exploration to exports and the landlocked KRG has little option but to export the region's oil and gas reserves to world markets. The state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and Turkish-British oil firm Genel Energy PLC are currently searching for oil in Iraq's north, which sits on 45 billion barrels of oil and has extensive natural gas reserves, a hot spot for energy-poor Turkey. The KRG is currently trucking around 20,000 barrels of crude oil a day over the Turkish border in exchange for refined oil products.
Looking to even further improve this trade, the KRG said last week that it will press ahead with building its own oil export pipeline to Turkey despite opposition from Baghdad. Baghdad says it alone has the authority to control the exports of the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, while the Kurds say that their right to do so is enshrined in Iraq's federal constitution, drawn up following the US-led invasion of 2003. Sources cite the US government as among those who are concerned that this "oil war" will lead to a fragmentation of Iraq.
Underlining that Turkey has investments in the energy markets of Venezuela and Colombia, Yıldız said "it will be strange to turn a blind eye to a market sitting next to us." Recent statements made by the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), did not escape Yildiz's criticisms as well. He criticized the CHP for failing to realize the potential in Turkey's surrounding markets and the need to make use of these. A CHP deputy had earlier alleged that Ankara and Arbil had inked "a secret deal" to export and market the KRG's oil and gas for global trade without Baghdad's knowledge.
"We have nothing against Iraq's constitution in its federal structure. ... An increase in incomes will make our neighbor stronger," Yildiz commented on Monday.
Meanwhile, in other news on Turkey's energy supplies, Russia's Interfax quoted the country's ambassador to Ankara, Vladimir Ivanovsky, as saying on Monday that "Russia is prepared to hold negotiations with Turkey on the issue of increasing gas exports to this country." Ankara back in December said it expected to increase natural gas imports from its largest supplier Moscow by as much as 3 billion cubic meters. Turkey imports 48.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year, of which 30 billion comes from Moscow. Turkey is Moscow's second largest natural gas customer after Germany. "Experts from the two countries are now considering the possibility of increasing shipments of natural gas along the existing Blue Stream gas pipeline," Ivanovsky said.
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