Oil Dispute: Agreeing to Disagree, for now

The developments, however, were not quite clear, as neither the text nor the details of the deal had been announced until Dec. 1, when Turkish Energy Minister Tanz Yildiz arrived in Baghdad. Yildiz made a quick visit to the city to reassure Baghdad about the Kurdish-Turkish deal arrangements prior to attending an energy conference held on Dec. 2 in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, Hussein al-Shahristani, said on Monday, Dec. 1, that he signed an agreement with the Turkish Energy Minister, whereby the federal government has to approve any oil exports from anywhere in Iraq. This was confirmed by Yildiz, who also said, “Turkey will ask for the approval of Baghdad on the commercial export of oil from the Kurdistan region of Iraq.”

“The two parties have also discussed a current plan to establish a pipeline to transport crude oil from oil fields in Basra in southern Iraq to Turkey,” he added.

On the same day, the Turkish minister left Baghdad to Erbil to attend an energy conference organized by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), with the participation of active oil companies. The KRG’s prime minister said in a statement that the new contracts signed by Kurdistan serve the interest of Iraq.

This entire controversy, however, has failed to show whether Baghdad accepts or rejects those contracts. The Iraqi government source told Al-Monitor, “The governmental atmosphere that followed the conclusion of oil contracts was tense and angry in Baghdad. This anger was not assuaged by the Turkish minister’s visit, but by other political calculations.”

There is a perpetual problem regulating Baghdad’s relationship with Erbil, and each side accuses the other of causing this problem, knowing that there is a history of mistrust between the two parties. This mistrust is partly due to Iraqi Kurds feeling that the political experiment that took place after 2003 and the gains that they got from this experience were not enough to reassure them about the future, following decades of injustice and tyranny on the hands of successive governments in Baghdad.

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