Kurdish exports invite complications

May 29, 2009 at 10:55 AM   |   Comments

BAGHDAD, May 29 (UPI) -- With oil exports from Kurdish fields set for June 1, the flood of contractors to northern Iraq may inflame political disputes over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraqi announced earlier this month oil exports from its regional fields would begin Monday from the Taq Taq and Tawke oil fields.

The issue of oil exports from the Kurdish regions of Iraq is a point of contention between the KRG and Baghdad, which views any unilateral moves in the oil sector as illegal.

The Iraqi Oil Minister on May 11, however, issued letters to the KRG permitting oil exports from the fields.

The Tawke Field will begin exports at an initial rate of around 60,000 barrels per day, while the Taq Taq field north of Kirkuk will truck oil at the rate of 40,000 barrels per day.

Apart from political complications from oil contracts, Kirkuk, which holds more than 10 percent of all the oil in Iraq, lies at the heart of divisions over the so-called disputed territories.

The KRG seeks to annex Kirkuk as part of a reconciliation measure, though Baghdad moves into the oil sector in Kirkuk could damage relations between the two governments, The New York Times reports.

"By opening bids on fields in Kirkuk, Prime Minister Maliki is clearly poking the Kurds in the eye by asserting Iraqi sovereignty over oil in territories whose status is constitutionally in dispute," said Iraq analyst Joost Hiltermann with the International Crisis Group.

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