By John Lee.
Oil giant ExxonMobil has reportedly hired former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey (pictured), as a consultant.
The company was recently told that it must choose between working in Iraq's southern oilfields, where it operates the $50 billion West Qurna 1 oilfield, or in Kurdistan, where it has signed exploration deals.
Exxon’s chief executive Rex Tillerson met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and with Kurdistan’s President Barzani recently to discuss operations in both areas, while industry sources said the US oil major was considering an offer from Baghdad.
According to Reuters, it was unclear whether James Jeffrey was hired specifically to handle the dilemma and its fallout, but industry sources and diplomats said it was likely to work in the central government's favour.
"He probably has better relations in Baghdad than in Arbil," said a former U.S. diplomat on condition of anonymity.
Iraq Oil Report says that when ExxonMobil signed the six oil deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in October 2011, then-U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey was "furious", as he was forced to manage the aftermath.
(Sources: Reuters, Iraq Oil Report)