Kurdistan Opposes BP Deal in Kirkuk, Warns it Will Not Provide Security

By RUDAW – 8-11-2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) reiterated its opposition to a contract by BP to develop oil fields in disputed Kirkuk province, and warned it would not provide security if the British energy giant goes ahead with the project.

“KRG has not been consulted so far about this matter and the deal that BP has made with Baghdad is unconstitutional and cannot be defended legally,” said the statement, by the Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

“KRG will not cooperate and facilitate BP operations in the fields, nor will provide security for them until KRG is consulted and participate as equal partner per the constitution,” the statement warned.

Kirkuk lies in the heart of Iraq’s disputed territories, claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad. But the Kurds, with 26 seats in the provincial council, also occupy the main security and police positions.

The KRG’s warning follows a visit to Kirkuk by Iraqi Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi on Wednesday, just as the autonomous Kurdistan Region, which forbids oil developments in the disputed province, was finalizing a pipeline deal with Turkey that Baghdad has vehemently opposed. The visit by the minister, who was accompanied by BP CEO Bob Dudley, is seen as a threat by Baghdad to go ahead with developing a major contested oil field in Kirkuk, unless Erbil desists in its growing cooperation with Turkey. In January, when Baghdad publicly announced the deal with BP, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) called it “illegal.”

In turn, Baghdad claims that direct deals by the KRG to develop its own petroleum fields and export oil are illegal. It insists that all such agreements must go through the central government. Those objections have been ignored completely, with major US, Russian and Turkish oil firms involved in dozens of energy projects in the Kurdistan Region.  The MNR statement added that the Kirkuk deal with BP — and others like it — are against Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which remains to be implemented six years after deadline. It provides a mechanism for the people in contested regions such as Kirkuk, Diyala and Nineveh to decide through a referendum whether they want to be part of the Kurdistan Region or remain under Baghdad’s administration. Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim, who is a Kurd, confirmed his administration’s support for the BP oil deal at a press conference during the Baghdad oil delegation’s visit.

“A number of service projects have kicked off in our province, and the oil companies will have projects on an annual basis to better serve Kirkuk,” he told reporters. The MNR statement added that, according to the 2005 constitution, any plan to develop the “already producing oil fields” in Kirkuk and other disputed territories requires the approval of the KRG, which must be treated as equal partner of the federal government in Baghdad.The KRG’s comprehensive energy deal with Turkey and BP’s move into contested Kirkuk could elevate the political and legal battles between Erbil and Baghdad to a higher level, straining relations even more.

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