Relations improving between Turkey and
Iraq's Kurdistan region
By Jonathan Levack for SES Türkiye
There may be questions about
the feasibility of a Turkey-KRG oil pipeline, but
the two sides have many areas in which to
Kurdistan Regional Government KRG Natural Resources
Minister Ashti Hawrami (right) shakes hands with
Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz in Erbil, the
capital city of Kurdistan, on May 20th. Photo: Reuters
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June 21, 2012
ISTANBUL, — Surrounded by abundant energy
supplies in its neighbourhood, Turkey has long been
looking to diversify its energy sources. With the
economy largely escaping the ongoing global
financial crisis, demand for energy is skyrocketing.
During Turkey Energy Minister Taner Yildiz's
visit to Erbil last month, Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG) Natural Resource Minister
Ashti Hawrami announced plans to build a new
pipeline to transport crude oil from northern Iraq
For many, it marked a new page in warming relations
between Erbil and Ankara, and was seen as further
evidence of souring relations between Ankara and
Baghdad. The project would effectively bypass
Baghdad, reducing the KRG's dependency on the
Domestic consumption of electricity in Turkey is
rising at about 8% per year, equivalent to a
doubling of electricity usage every decade. In a
country with few meaningful hydrocarbon reserves of
its own, Turkey spends up to $40 billion a year just
to meet demand.
The attraction of Erbil is clear. High estimates put
the KRG's potential oil reserves at 45 billion
barrels of oil and 1.7 trillion cubic metres of gas.
More realistically, reserves are estimated to total
40 billion barrels, according to the US Geological
Kurdistan is keen to see production increase from
250,000 barrels of oil per day to more than 2
million by 2019, with Turkey an obvious market for
any increase in production. Sharing a 350km land
the KRG hopes new oil and gas pipelines could
increase hydrocarbon exports and enable the region
to become more self-sufficient.
New pipelines would also allow the KRG easy access
to the Mediterranean through Turkey and thus
lucrative European markets. Turkey would also
benefit from potentially profitable transit fees.
According to Professor Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert
at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the project
makes sense in the long run, but he questions
whether it is feasible. He told SES Türkiye that
"this is a particularly complex game."
Denise Natali, an expert on the Kurds and Minerva
Chair at the Institute for National Strategic
Studies, said that "the notion of an independent
pipeline from the Kurdistan Region directly to
Turkey, bypassing Baghdad, is highly unlikely."
Baghdad is adamant that any oil deal involving Iraq
must have federal approval.
Ankara's misgivings with the Maliki government in
Baghdad are well documented and this latest overture
to Erbil is, according to Barkey, is "their way of
sending a message."
Leveraging Baghdad may be part of Ankara's
calculation, but equally important is developing
bilateral relations with the KRG. "Turkey and the
KRG have developed, and will continue to develop,
mutual economic and energy interests," Natali said.
Developing ties with the KRG will also enable Ankara
to combat the threat from the PKK and potentially
contribute to solving the country's Kurdish problem.
Barkley believes that Ankara now hopes that
Kurdistan can pressure the PKK to agree to a
ceasefire and pave the way to a peaceful solution.
"The Turks have made it very clear recently that
they need the KRG for demobilising the PKK," Barkey
said. "You cannot resolve the Kurdish issue in
Turkey without KRG support."
Published by Ekurd.net in cooperation with Southeast
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