Iraqi Kurdistan to sell gas directly to
Kurdistan Regional Government Minister for Natural
Resources Ashti Hawrami in Erbil, Kurdistan region
of Iraq. Photo: Reuters
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Ashti Hawrami says we plan
to sell 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas to
July 3, 2012
ISTANBUL/ERBIL,— Iraq's semi-autonomous
Kurdistan region may begin selling natural gas
directly to Turkey within two years, its energy
minister said on Tuesday, a move likely to anger the
central government and further strain Baghdad's ties
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north
of the country and Baghdad have rowed for years over
issues including late payments for crude, the
legality of the regional government's oil deals and
Baghdad accuses the Kurds of smuggling their oil
abroad, mainly to Iran, and wrecking the central
budget by denying it revenue.
"Even if there's no consensus with Baghdad, we will
continue to sell natural gas and oil to Turkey," KRG
Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami told the
Caspian Gas Forum in Istanbul.
"We plan to sell 10 billion cubic meters of natural
gas to Turkey, and later Europe in the long-term,"
he said, adding that sales were expected to begin
within 18 months to two years.
The KRG is obliged to attract investment from
abroad, he said. "If we left everything up to
Baghdad this would not work."
Once the poorest region of Iraq, Kurdistan is now at
its most prosperous, having been largely insulated
from the insurgency and sectarian violence in the
south, and the regional government has increasingly
become less reliant on Baghdad.
For now, the region largely depends on receiving 17
percent of the national budget, but the KRG
estimates there are about 45 billion barrels of oil
reserves in the north, most of it as yet untapped.
While there are no official figures for gas reserves
in Kurdistan, Iraq as a whole has the world's
10th-largest reserves at 112 trillion cubic feet,
according to U.S. Department of Energy data.
Most Kurdish oil is still pumped into the national
pipeline system. One pipeline carrying about 60,000
bpd already feeds directly from Kurdistan's Tawke
oilfield into the main pipeline to the Turkish port
The move to bypass Baghdad could further strain ties
between the central Iraqi government and Turkey,
which has forged solid political and trade ties with
Iraq's Kurds in recent years.
Iraq is currently the second-biggest market after
Germany for Turkish exports, amounting to more than
$8 billion last year. But according to Turkish
Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan,www.ekurd.net
about 70 percent of Turkey's exports to Iraq are to
If the Kurdistan region were a country, it would
still be Turkey's eighth-biggest export market,
according to his estimates.
Turkish officials have been locked in a war of words
with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki since
December, when he ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice
President Tareq al-Hashemi, based on allegations
that he ran death squads.
Turkey, the majority of whose people are Sunnis, has
accused Shi'ite Maliki of stirring ethnic tension.
The Iraqi prime minister has accused Turkey of
meddling in its affairs.
Turkey has heavily courted the Kurds, along with
Iraq's Sunni Arab parties in recent years, but
Maliki and Shi'ite parties have remained allied to
By Evrim Ergin - Reuters
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