IRBIL, Iraq, March 23 (UPI) -- A top Kurdish official says the region will sign more deals with international oil companies, regardless of the status of Iraq's draft hydrocarbons law.
Ashti Hawrami, energy minster of the semi-autonomous northern Iraq region of Kurdistan, told the Financial Times the region wants to sign deals with 10 more oil companies by the end of the year. The Kurdistan Regional Government has already signed five contracts to develop the large oil reserves it has.
Those contracts had been called invalid by the central government's Oil Ministry in Baghdad, creating tension over control of undeveloped oil reserves. But those fights seemed to have subsided for now after the sides struck a tentative deal last month that would determine both control over the oil and how oil revenue is redistributed.
The law hasn't been taken up by the Parliament yet, and there are some tough issues still to be addressed which could stall the draft law's approval. Best case scenarios has the law approved by end of May.
If it is, it would detail how international companies could invest in Iraq's 115 billion barrels of proven reserves, the third most in the world. But the security conditions in Iraq would need to be improved before any people or capital is put on the ground in Iraq.
Aside from the oil pipeline from Kirkuk, in Iraq's north, to ports in Turkey, which is attacked so much it is offline more than operational, Kurdistan has been relatively free of violence.
"We are in discussions with a number of other companies," Hawrami said. "It is more likely that the contractors will come (to Kurdistan) to start with and set up a base to hopefully then invest in the rest of Iraq."