UPDATE 2-Iraq says Turkey rejects Kurd export pipelines

Ahmed Rasheed
Reuters Middle East

* Iraq says Turkey rejects KRG export pipelines

* Baghdad, Kurdistan locked in long oil dispute

* Turkey still delaying KRG gas import license

BAGHDAD, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Turkey has told Iraq it will

reject any extension of oil and gas pipelines from Kurdistan

without the approval of the Baghdad government, Iraq's oil

minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi was quoted as saying by the state

media network on Monday.

Iraq's Arab-led central government and the Kurdistan

regional government (KRG), run by ethnic Kurds, are in a

long-running dispute over how to exploit the country's crude

reserves and divide the revenues.

Baghdad says it alone has the authority to control export of

the world's fourth largest oil reserves, while the Kurds say

their right to do so is enshrined in Iraq's federal

constitution, drawn up following the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.

"Turkey has officially informed Iraq it rejects extending

oil and gas export pipelines from the Kurdistan region to pass

through Turkey without approval from federal government," the

network quoted the minister as saying.

The Turkish energy ministry declined to comment on the


Kurdistan's Minister for Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami

said earlier this month the autonomous region was pressing ahead

with plans to build its own oil export pipeline to Turkey,

despite objections from the United States, which fears the

project could lead to the break-up of Iraq.

Resource-hungry Turkey has heavily courted Iraqi Kurds,

straining ties with the Iraqi central government.

Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki's media advisor Ali

al-Moussawi said Turkey's rejection of the pipeline would help

enhance bilateral relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which

have deteriorated over the past year.

"The government welcomes Turkey's move, which will

significantly help to stablise the region and also strengthen

relations between central government and Kurdish region,"" Ali

al-Moussawi added.

Ankara has been locked in a war of words with Maliki, a

Shi'ite, since December 2011, when he ordered the arrest of his

Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who took refuge in

Kurdistan before fleeing to Turkey.


Iraqi Kurdistan halted oil exports through the

Baghdad-controlled Iraq-Turkey pipeline in December in a dispute

over payments to oil companies operating in the autonomous


In early January, Kurdistan began exporting crude oil

directly to world markets through Turkey, further angering

Baghdad, which threatened action against the region and foreign

oil companies working there to stop "illegal" crude exports.

A broad energy partnership between Turkey and Iraqi

Kurdistan ranging from exploration to export has been in the

works since last year.

Amid uncertainty over the detail and timing of the deal,

Turkey's energy watchdog EPDK on Friday again delayed a decision

on whether to award a license for Turkish firm Siyah Kalem to

import gas from Kurdistan.

Siyah Kalem had sought extra time from Turkey's Energy

Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) for its application due to

difficulties in reaching agreement with the northern Iraqi

administration. It was given until the end of 2013.

Turkish officials initially indicated that they thought a

purchase agreement signed with the KRG was legally sufficient to

allow imports into Turkey. But officials later confirmed any

such agreement would need to be approved by Baghdad.

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