By RUDAW – 2-12-2013 – Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz is in Erbil today to attend a major energy conference. He arrived from Baghdad, where he reportedly spoke with Iraqi officials about the mechanism of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region and how revenues would be divided between Erbil and the central government. In an important interview with Rudaw, Yildiz stressed that Ankara “will not sit idly” and overlook Kurdish supplies of oil and gas so close to its borders.
The minister, who could not attend a similar conference in Erbil last year after Baghdad refused his plane permission to land, said that the United States and Baghdad would both drop their opposition to direct oil exports from the Kurdistan Region once they were convinced of the transparency of the deal, and saw that it benefits not only all of Iraq but the whole region. Here is his interview with Rudaw:
Rudaw: A new deal on the exploration and export of Kurdish oil has been signed between Ankara and Erbil. What are the contents of that deal?
Taner Yildiz: First of all, the visit of Nechirvan Barzani (Kurdish Prime Minister) was very productive and we have signed many deals. We see our agreements with Iraq’s central government and our deals with the Kurdistan Region as significant steps to normalizing the overall situation in Iraq. The deals will stand and we will certainly have more meetings and talks. Our deals, be they in the north of Iraq or the south, are only aimed at taking Iraq’s oil and natural gas to the world market.
Our deals, be they in the north of Iraq or the south, are only aimed at taking Iraq’s oil and natural gas to the world market.
We believe that our deals with our brothers in Iraq and with the Kurdistan Region are very valuable. We certainly expect some people to say that these deals are good or bad, but that is only natural. I would say frankly that Turkey will not sit idly about its nearby sources [of energy]. Iraq will benefit from Turkey’s stability and that is not surprising. Turkey is one of the most secure gateways to the outside world. This deal is for 15 years and wherever in Iraq there is crude oil it should go through the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline, which we expect to be at least 1.5 million barrels per day.
Though what is important is that this is done transparently. I believe the more honestly we explain this issue to the United Nations and the US, the better they will understand. Our efforts for the benefits of both countries will be seen more clearly in the future.
Rudaw: How does the Iraqi central government see those deals?
Taner Yildiz: We understand the concerns of the Iraqi government very well. The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) has now replaced the Nabucco line, and it is their right that they have demands and concerns, especially with our new deals. But the revenue we are talking about is the property of all Iraq and our Iraqi brothers have made a joint decision in their constitution and Turkey must accept this and act accordingly.
That constitutional agreement marks 83 percent of oil revenues for the central government and 17 percent for the Kurdistan Region. Therefore Iraq’s demand for its share of the revenue is right. We have to deal with all this with transparency.
Rudaw: Iraqi Prime Minister is due to visit Ankara and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit Baghdad. These meetings are to do with the oil deals. But is it likely that they will affect the signing of the deals?
Our efforts for the benefits of both countries will be seen more clearly in the future.
Taner Yildiz: Signing isn’t that important. What is important is for the process to continue. Maliki’s visit to Ankara and Erdogan’s visit to Baghdad, our meetings with Hussein Shahristani, Maliki and Abdelkarim Luaibi will only help the process. Also our meetings and discussions with Nechirvan Barzani and Ashti Hawrami in Erbil will help strengthen our ties. I especially want to say that friendship will contribute to the economic prosperity of both sides. God willing, we will carry this out in the Coming days.
Rudaw: It has been reported in the media that you have suggested keeping the revenue of oil exported via Turkey in a Turkish bank. Is this true?
Taner Yildiz: Yes, that is true. We want an observer appointed by the central government to be at the metering station. The Kurdish officials know this too. Whatever amount of oil goes through here, whether it is just 100 barrels, whether it is $1000, it will be deposited in a special account and the Iraqi government will see it daily. We have to be transparent about this.
Rudaw: How does Washington see all of this?
Our meetings and discussions with Nechirvan Barzani and Ashti Hawrami in Erbil will help strengthen our ties.
Taner Yildiz: Washington undoubtedly wants the situation in Iraq to normalize and the more Iraq’s revenue increases the more it will help. Iraq currently exports 2.7 barrels of oil per day. If that goes up to seven million bpd it will take Iraq to more stability and prosperity. I think Washington’s stance to this will be positive. From time to time we hear different comments, but we have to look at we are doing. If oil and gas is produced in Iraq, then it has to be said publically. And Turkey has to use its stability in this regard, not only to its own advantage, but to the region as a whole.
There are countries that extract oil but cannot send it to the destination they want because of their national policies or their geographic reality. We should do this in Iraq. If Basrah’s revenue increases we should be delighted, not saddened. Basrah’s gateways to the outside world aren’t enough and should they increase their capacity they should announce it publically.
Rudaw: Turkey now enjoys strong relations with the Kurdistan Region. Is this temporary? Can both sides speak of a possible strategic agreement?
Taner Yildiz: The situation isn’t such to say that we do this today and something else tomorrow. Politically, socially and economically, we should focus on continuation. It is about our future and that of our children. We want to continue our relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region with the same warmth.