Ankara eyes new partnerships in northern Iraq

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said that further exploration agreements were likely to come throughout 2013

Ankara eyes new partnerships in northern Iraq

World Bulletin/News Desk

Ankara is eyeing foreign partners to develop oil and gas fields in northern Iraq, while at home it wants to get domestic partners on board a Russian project to build a nuclear plant in Akkuyu, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Wednesday.

“Thirty-nine firms from 19 countries are currently doing business in Northern Iraq, it's quite natural for us to do so as well,” Yıldız told reporters after returning from a trip to the United States, where he traveled last week with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other Turkish delegates. Indeed, Ankara inked a major partnership last week between the state run Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), US oil giant Exxon Mobil and the regional government in Arbil to search for gas in the energy-rich semiautonomous region.

Yıldız told Reuters on Wednesday that further exploration agreements were likely to come throughout 2013. "We are likely to be involved with Russian and American companies in northern Iraq for different projects like oil and gas exploration. And this year, state-owned and private companies could sign commercial contracts with northern Iraq," he told the agency.

Those potential deals will test an already turbulent political balance in Iraq, where Baghdad has long sparred with Arbil over who has the constitutional right to sign deals for the northern region's vast, untapped oil and gas reserves. More deals would also bring an already close Ankara and Arbil closer, by helping Ankara secure desperately needed energy reserves and giving Northern Iraq access to foreign markets

Additional deals toward exploration in the contested north would come as Arbil completes a new pipeline to link the Taq Taq oilfield in northern Iraq to an existing crude pipeline between the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Reuters in April predicted that the pipeline would be completed in the third quarter of 2013. It would allow Turkish oil firm Genel Energy to pump crude directly to Turkey, bypassing Baghdad. In the past, crude from the Taq Taq field has been imported via truck to Turkey.

While Ankara has reiterated its intent to help maintain the stability and unity of Iraq, Yıldız on Wednesday defended the deals it is seeking with Arbil, which has already angered Baghdad, as a matter of necessity. “Our energy needs are continuously growing,” said Yıldız. “It isn't possible for us to stay out of a region that has a 200 kilometer shared border with us.” Yıldız lamented that Turkey produces just 45,000 barrels of domestic oil a day and must import around 97 percent of its fossil fuel from abroad. Arbil claims that Iraq's constitution gives it the right to sign independent extraction deals with oil firms and foreign governments, while Baghdad says the document gives it exclusive rights over oil deals and subsequent revenues. The central government has repeatedly frozen subsidy payments to the northern province over independently signed oil contracts.

Domestic partners wanted for Akkuyu

Yıldız also said Ankara wants to get domestic firms involved in the construction and operation of the $20 billion Akkuyu nuclear plant, which will be built in the southern province of Mersin by the Russian state energy firm Rosatom. “If there are any local investors who want to be partners in the plant to be built at Akkuyu, Russia is going to evaluate that,” Yıldız told reporters on Wednesday after returning from a visit to the United States. Last week, the minister pledged that it was also seeking domestic partners for a second plant in the Black Sea Province of Sinop, a plant that will be built and operated by a Japanese-French consortium.


Last Mod: 23 Mayıs 2013, 10:23
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