The Iraqi government has warned Turkey that it will need their permission if it is to build a new pipeline carrying oil and gas from the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, according to reports yesterday (22 May).
Turkey signed the deal with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) on Sunday (20 May) and officials from the KRG confirmed at an energy conference that it intends to begin exporting crude oil to Turkey by August 2013 (seeTurkey - Iraq: 23 May:). The planned pipeline could deliver up to a million barrels a day and would mean Turkey had direct access to KRG resources; its relationship with the autonomous entity has improved hugely in recent years thanks to mutual trade. However, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, Ali al-Moussawi, warned Turkey that any deals with the KRG had to go via Iraq's central government Baghdad. "We have no problem with any deals, but they have to be according to the Iraqi constitution and laws that govern relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish region," said al-Moussawi. Tensions have grown in recent months, both between the Iraqi regime and the KRG, which has closed down the supply of oil for export over a payment dispute, and between Iraq and Turkey.
Significance: Turkey's declared strategy of maintaining good relations with all its neighbours is under severe strain, both due to events in Syria and heightened tensions with Iraq. Iraqi protesters burned Turkish flags over the weekend (seeTurkey - Iraq: 21 May:) over a row about Turkish refusal to extradite Iraq's fugitive vice-president Tareq Al-Hashemi. Indeed, in April al-Maliki accused Turkey of being a "hostile state". Given that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo an has previously warned that Turkey would not remain neutral if a sectarian conflict were to erupt in Iraq, the increase in tensions is hardly surprising. However, Turkey's deep fears over Kurdish independence, both in Iraq and within its own territory, may ultimately constrain its willingness to stoke the existing tensions with Baghdad beyond a certain point.
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