Kurds offer to export 100,000bpd of oil in Iraq row

Photo: Kurds offer to export 100,000bpd of oil in Iraq row / Arab World

Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region pledged on Thursday to export 100,000 barrels of oil per day through central government-controlled pipelines in a bid to resolve an impasse with Baghdad Al Alarabiya reported.

The move comes with Kurdish authorities in Erbil and the central government locked in a row over energy exports in which Baghdad has choked off funds to the northern region, draining its reserves.

"As a goodwill gesture, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) has offered to make a contribution to Iraq oil pipeline exports to give the negotiations [between Baghdad and Erbil] the maximum chance of success," it said in a statement posted on its website.

"The KRG contribution to oil export [sic] will be one hundred thousand [100,000] barrels per day" from next month onwards, the statement said, adding that exports will continue "while the negotiations are proceeding in a positive direction".

"The KRG has not set any preconditions for this initiative."

Earlier this year, Erbil shipped oil directly to Turkey without Baghdad's consent, although the crude has not yet been sold on international markets.

The decision by Kurdish authorities was the latest in a years-long row between Baghdad and Erbil over energy, and spurred the central government to partly cut off funding to the three-province region.

The decline in funding has forced Erbil to delay paying some government salaries.

Thursday's announcement was welcomed by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which said it was buoyed by "the commitment from the KRG to ensure that these exports continue in parallel to ongoing talks towards a framework agreement on the management of the hydrocarbon sector".

Baghdad argues that all oil sales must be overseen by the central government, and regards any independent exports as tantamount to smuggling.

Kurdistan, which enjoys a high level of autonomy from Baghdad and has its own security forces, government and flag, has also drawn Baghdad's ire for signing contracts with foreign energy firms without its approval.

In addition to disputes over natural resources, the long-standing ambition of Kurdish leaders to incorporate a swathe of territory stretching from Iran to Syria into their autonomous region, against Baghdad's strong opposition, is another major point of contention.

Diplomats and officials say the disputes are one of the biggest long-term threats to Iraq's stability.

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