ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A US Secretary of State official and the top politician in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Thursday "affirmed the need for stronger Baghdad-Erbil ties," just after Iraq's federal government restarted pipeline exports of Kirkuk crude oil after being halted for over a year.
The comments came during a meeting in Erbil between KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Andrew L. Peek, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
"Both sides welcomed the decision of the federal Iraqi government to resume exporting Kirkuk's oil through the Kurdistan Region," a KRG statement summarizing the meeting read, adding that the move would "benefit the whole of Iraq."
On Wednesday, Peek, outlining the topics of discussion with Iraqi officials during an October visit by a delegation of the State Department, said that the issue of Kirkuk oil had been something to which the US was committed.
It "just makes sense" for Iraq to export the Kirkuk oil to Turkey, he affirmed. "It’s good for Baghdad; it’s good for Erbil."
After weeks of intense negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad and a US push, the two administrations reached an agreement to resolve outstanding disputes and help address a shortage of Iranian crude in the region as a result of US-imposed sanctions on Tehran.
The deal indicates that Iraq's Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban are ready to work with the KRG despite previous tensions following last year's independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Region.
The export of Kirkuk oil to Turkey was stopped in Oct. 2017 after Iraqi forces and Shia militias took control of the oil-rich province and other disputed territories, shutting off the outgoing flow of 300,000 bpd to Turkey and an incoming yearly revenue stream totaling some $8 billion.
Kirkuk is one of the largest and oldest oil fields in the Middle East, estimated to have 9 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The province is one of the territories claimed by both the KRG and the federal government of Iraq.
Editing by John J. Catherine