Iraq welcomes Kurdish administration's oil deals with Turkey
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani welcomed recent agreements between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdish administration on oil and natural gas exports to Turkey, provided that the central government in Baghdad is not marginalized in any such agreements, Anadolu Agency reported.
"We support and seek to increase our oil and future natural gas exports to Turkey," al-Shahristani told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
"This is something that we seek to achieve," he asserted.
Al-Shahristani said, however, that the quantities of Iraqi oil exported to Turkey must be known to the central government, oil must be sold at international market prices and that revenues from oil sales must be channeled to the account of the Iraq Development Fund in New York in line with of previous UN Security Council resolutions.
A number of Turkish government officials visited Iraq over the past few weeks to help improve economic relations with their Arab neighbor.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek paid a visit to the country last month.
Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz also paid a visit to Iraq two weeks ago to discuss means of bringing energy cooperation between Turkey and Iraq back to normal after a two-year chill.
The Turkish government has signed a package of oil and natural gas deals with Iraqi Kurdish administration.
The deals will bring Iraqi oil and natural gas to international markets via pipelines that cross Turkish territory.
A Turkish company would start working on 13 different sites in the Iraqi Kurdish region.
An oil and natural gas pipeline in the region would help raise oil exports from the region to a million barrels a year. Exports are due to commence in 2017.
Al-Shahristani said Iraq is mindful that Turkey needs more oil to keep the engine of its economic and industrial growth going.
He asserted that apart from being a major oil exporter at present, Iraq will soon become a major natural gas exporter as well.
"Iraq views Turkey as an important neighbor with whom it has historic relations," al-Shahristani said.
"We view relations with Turkey through the prism of integration, not only cooperation in specific fields," he added.
Al-Shahristani went on to say that decisions on oil and natural gas exports must be made by the elected Iraqi government because oil and natural gas resources are owned by the Iraqi people, not by a specific region.
He welcomed what he described as the desire of Kurdish administration officials to sit with central government officials to settle pending disputes, particularly on oil.
The deputy premier said his government is keen on solving pending disputes in accordance with conditions it has set for the exportation of Iraqi oil.
Reacting to reports that the central government had restricted visits by Turkish officials to the Kurdish region, al-Shahristani said foreign officials need to get permission from the central government first.
"Any foreign official seeking to visit any part of Iraq on an official visit must contact the Foreign Ministry first," he explained.
"Iraq does not allow planes carrying foreign officials to cross its borders without official permission from the Foreign Ministry," he added.
The deputy premier said the central government was keen to deliver the same message to Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz during his recent visit.
He said the Baghdad government told Yildiz that he was most welcome in the capital first and then he was free to visit any region in Iraq.
"This applies to all foreign officials who visit our country on a formal visit," al-Shahristani said.
He noted that Ankara was seeking to encourage Turkish companies to work in Iraq.
"We told them that Iraq has an ambitious plan to diversify its exports,"
Al-Shahristani said. "We do not want to depend on one source only," he added.