ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The decision by Exxon Mobile to evacuate its foreign staff from Iraq’s southern West Qurna 1 oilfield on Saturday has nothing to do with security or threats but was motivated by “political reasons,” Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban claimed on Saturday.
He labeled the decision “unacceptable and unjustified.”
“The withdrawal of multiple employees - despite their small number - temporarily has nothing to do with the security situation or threats in the oilfields in of southern Iraq, but it’s for political reasons,” Ghadhban said in a statement.
The minister’s comments come one day after Exxon Mobil, which has signed a long-term contract to develop the oil field, withdrew all foreign staff, some 60 people, from Iraq.
Earlier on Wednesday, the US State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency US government employees from its embassy in Baghdad and consulate-general in Erbil, as well as the suspension of normal visa services.
The Iraqi oil minister also revealed that he had already sent a letter to Exxon Mobil asking the company to immediately reinstate its staff at the southern oilfield, days ahead of a meeting with the company’s executives scheduled for this week.
Officials from Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Company earlier stated that output at the oilfield remains unaffected with 440,000 barrels per day (bpd).
Iraq has one of the world’s largest oil reserves and is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Editing by Nadia Riva