Turkey will soon need to start exporting oil from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) because its storage tanks at the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan are almost fall, according to Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
"We will be in a position to send this oil to world markets once the tanks are full. We can't keep this in tanks," Yıldız said.
Turkey has allocated three storage tanks at the Ceyhan export outlet with a total capacity of 2.5 million barrels for oil coming from the KRG pipeline, where oil started to flow last December.
Baghdad has repeatedly threatened to sue Ankara and slash the Kurdish region's share of the national budget if exports go ahead through the pipeline without its consent. The pipeline was completed late last year, and oil has since been pumped through it into storage tanks at Ceyhan, but exports from the Mediterranean port are on hold to give diplomacy a chance. Negotiations have carried on for months with little progress as Baghdad and Arbil remain at loggerheads over the sharing and payment method for oil revenues, leaving the future of exports in limbo for now.
A breakthrough before Iraqi elections due on April 30 looks extremely unlikely, Turkish officials said.
Separately, the Baghdad-controlled Iraq-Turkey pipeline, which has been pumping way below its 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of capacity, is in very bad shape due to persistent militant attacks, Yıldız said. "The pipeline on the Iraqi side is in unusable shape. This is a loss for Iraq."
Meanwhile, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has warned that patience is running out with Baghdad over oil exports and budget issues.
"We were expecting to reach an agreement with Iraq and for that we have shown a lot of patience, but our patience has a limit," Barzani said in Arbil, warning they will have their "own solution" if there is no agreement, the Rudaw website reported.
Barzani said Baghdad still had not sent the KRG budget payments for March and April. "They only have only sent the budget for January and February's salaries, which wasn't enough, despite having dispensed the share to all other Iraqi provinces," he said.
Barzani also praised ties with Turkey. Last week, he met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara. "There is a good understanding between Turkey and the Kurdistan region in all aspects, especially on energy," said Barzani.
"Turkey has no issues with the Kurdistan region exporting oil," said Barzani. "They have a clear policy and say, 'It's your oil, and you can sell it.'"