Turkey’s energy minister on Monday mooted three-party talks with Iraq’s central government and the autonomous Kurdish region to resolve a long-running row over the export of oil to international markets.
Taner Yildiz’s remarks come amid tensions between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in Arbil over a litany of disputes, ranging from territorial claims to revenue-sharing, which diplomats often point to as among the biggest long-term threats to Iraq’s stability.
“It is better to hold three-party direct talks between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and (Kurdish regional premier) Nechirvan Barzani, with the attendance of the Turkish side,” Yildiz said in a speech to an oil and gas conference in Arbil.
“It does not matter if the meeting is held in Baghdad, Arbil or Turkey.”
He added: “I think the meeting will be important and we will come out of it with good results.”
His remarks come as Kurdish officials have said they could start exporting oil as early as this month through a pipeline from Iraqi Kurdistan, infuriating Baghdad which insists all energy sales should be via the central government.
Kurdish authorities are seeking ways of selling their oil on international markets outside the control of Baghdad, but a lingering dispute with the central government has paralysed development of new oil and gas projects in the region.
Referring to the pipeline, Barzani said in his speech: “This step is not dangerous towards anyone but… we are not ready to give up on the issue of exporting oil in any way.”
On Sunday the Iraqi deputy premier in charge of energy issues, Hussein al-Shahristani, said Baghdad is ready to fulfil Turkey’s energy requirements but that oil sales must go through SOMO, the federal government body responsible for exports.
“Any amount of oil exported from any area of Iraq should be measured by the Iraqi ministry of oil and the price should be defined by (SOMO),” Shahristani said at a joint news conference with Yildiz.
“Revenues should be put in an account towards Iraq’s growth, and distributed according to the federal budget each year,” he added.