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News Analysis: Turkey moves to expand energy supply from Iraq

English.news.cn   2013-12-05 20:03:37            

ANKARA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Turkey has yet to quell the concerns of Iraq's central government over a recent interim deal it signed with the autonomous Kurdish region as Ankara tries to tap into oil and gas reserves in northern Iraq.

To avoid a backlash from Baghdad, Turkey has been treading lightly as it seeks to exploit oil and gas potentials in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq, but the energy-dependent country, which mainly gets its oil and natural gas from Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia, also emphasized that it will not lose the opportunity to harness the vast hydrocarbon resources its next door neighbor offers.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz flew to Baghdad on Sunday to meet Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain al- Shahristani, and to promote Turkey's position and include Baghdad input in the deal, a move that would likely reassure al- Shahristani, who said that Turkey would seek Iraq's approval before accepting Kurdish oil.

In Arbil, Yildiz expressed his hopes that the deal could be carried out through a "three-way mechanism," referring to the participation of central Iraq in the deal.

"Turkey's relations with Iraqi Kurdistan region continues to be held hostage to Baghdad," Cengiz Candar, a long-time observer on Middle Eastern politics, said.

Stressing that Baghdad and Arbil have not resolved their outstanding problems on sharing oil and gas resources, Candar doubted that a settlement is was near.

Turkey previously said it will withhold the Iraq's central government's share of oil exports from the Kurdish region in an escrow account and will transfer proceeds to Baghdad. It is not clear if the government in Baghdad has given a green light to the deal.

Settling payment issues is the main concern for all parties involved, and it also deters energy companies from fully committing to develop oil and gas in Kurdish region.

Baghdad is concerned that independent energy deals by Kurdistan region may lead to break up of Iraq and Turkey, worried over its own Kurds, also said it is sensitive to the territorial concerns of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the United States is also opposed to independent energy deals between Ankara and Arbil even though U.S. companies are also present in Kurdistan region. Washington fears independent energy deal may lead to further instability in Iraq.

"Turkey cannot do its own bidding alone in Iraq without the U.S. endorsement," Mesut Cevikalp, journalist who has written extensively on the issue, told Xinhua.

"For the moment, Baghdad has the backing of the U.S. and sidelining Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from deals in northern Iraq will also create troubles in Turkey's relations with the U.S., " he explained.

"The Turkish government may be reluctant to go down that path especially on the eve of elections during which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been trying to reset foreign policy choices," Cevikalp noted.

Ankara and Baghdad has been making overtures recently to repair ties as both governments are in the midst of domestic elections. Both are also concerned over spillover of Syrian crisis as the extremist groups in Syria have been creating security troubles along Turkish and Iraqi borderlines.

Turkey contends that energy deals will help alleviate domestic woes in Iraq where sectarian conflict has taken a big toll on country's economy and security.

"Turkey has adopted a cautious approach and is avoiding situations that might derail recently improved ties with Baghdad and that might create new tensions in the region," Sami Kohen, foreign policy analyst, said.

He pointed out that the main difference lies within the divergent positions of Arbil and Baghdad in terms of sovereignty and autonomy issues. He said the Baghdad government wants to exercise total sovereignty over whole Iraq while Kurdish region wants to enjoy full autonomy in local governance.

"Turkey looks at the importation of oil and gas from Kurdish region from commercial viewpoint in order to meet energy demand," Kohen stated.

Realizing the risks involved in deals with Kurdish region without the approval of Maliki government, Ankara has scrambled its diplomats to convince all sides to work out their differences.

Related:

Turkey to brief Iraq on energy cooperation with Iraqi Kurds

ANKARA, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz will have talks with Iraqi energy officials in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday in order to brief the Iraqi government on a package of energy deals agreed between Ankara and Iraq's autonomous northern region that the central government says are illegal.

Yildiz will meet Iraq's deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, and deliver the message that Turkey wants to carry the energy projects with three party cooperation including the central government of Iraq, a Turkish official told Xinhua. Full story

 

Editor: Fu Peng
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