Kremlin confirms respect for Iraq, after veiled warning on oil

The Russian oil company Rosneft last week was dealing with the Kurdish government amid regional skirmishes.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Oct. 23, 2017 at 8:00 AM
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Oct. 23 (UPI) -- After Iraq issued veiled warnings about oil work in the Kurdish north of Iraq, Russia's foreign minister said Monday the Kremlin respects Iraq's sovereignty.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari spoke Monday as his country copes with an uptick in violence in the northern provinces. Iraqi military forces pushed their Kurdish counterparts back into territory controlled by the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government following a contentious referendum for independence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin didn't want to see Iraq create new fault lines in the weeks that followed the liberation of parts of northern Iraq from the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State, known also as Daesh.

"I want to confirm once again our commitment to the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, the commitment to solving all the problems that arise through an inclusive national dialogue, involving and taking into account the interests of all ethnic, religious and political groups," he was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.

Lavrov's comments follow a warning last week from the Iraqi Oil Ministry, which said it was advising oil companies that they should be making contracts and dealing only with the federal government. Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar al-Luaibi said he was frustrated with announcements of intent to sign oil contracts inside the "geographic borders of Iraq without telling the federal government of the ministry of oil."

A statement carried by his ministry said such action was considered blatant interference in its internal affairs and an insult to Iraqi sovereignty. While making no direct reference to any particular company, Luabi's comments came one day after Russian oil company Rosneft said it signed an agreement with the KRG.

Rosneft last month, before the outbreak of violence, said it was finished with the due diligence requirements for an oil export pipeline from the Kurdish north and was in the process of finalizing the necessary legal documents. The Russian company said the agreement would help it play a leading role in expansions to Kurdish energy infrastructure in general.

Iraqi military forces operating in the northern restive provinces seized control over the oil fields in Kirkuk, last week, cutting off a revenue lifeline for the KRG.

"Kirkuk has always been the heart of Iraq and a place where the pulse beats, and where crucial economic interests of this country are concentrated," Jaafari said.

The status of Kirkuk is a source of dispute between the Kurdish and federal Iraqi governments.

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