Plane Incident Highlights Tensions Between Iraq, Turkey

Picture the scene… Major oil companies like Shell, Chevron, Exxon and Total rub shoulders over tea and coffee at the Erbil Oil&Gas conference. A major announcement is expected with regards to Turkey and Kurdistan. The whole day’s conference has been building a crescendo to this event – the potential revealing of a massive oil/pipeline deal.

Then news breaks that the Turkish Energy Minister has been ‘barred’ from Erbil airport by Iraqi Central Government officials. Like deflating balloons at the end of a party, the crescendo slides away.

Meanwhile across the border Iraqi troops eye Kurdistan Peshmerga.

Thesharehub highlighted the move from ‘words’ to ‘arms’ a week or so ago. See post here.

It’s not surprising to see that Kurd Oil exports have reduced by almost 50% since the ICG decided to up the ante. In fact, it’s really quite odd to see the taps on at all. Yesterday’s action by the ICG was unnecessary and childish. A desperate Prime Minister taking a party pooper approach to what is in reality ‘expansion & growth’ for all iraqi people.

Whilst Baghdad’s nose is clearly out of joint, action such as this can only damage the government further. Quite why the Kurds continue to supply oil to the central government is beyond me. The taps were cut off not long ago based purely on poor dialogue and parties not seeing eye to eye.

Today we have armies mounted around the Kurd borders and their air space being controlled by Baghdad. That’s tantamount to being surrounded – it’s aggressive and the powers that be really need to action very swiftly indeed.

This is 2012 – the years of dictators are over. The UN and the US seriously need to bang heads together before someone fires an ill considered shot. Some might say that scuppering a major conference announcement is worse than any eager bullet.

The signs are there for all to see. Action needs to be taken.

With Iraqi local elections set to commence in April 2013, it might not much of a surprise to see ‘things’ come together over the next few months. But boy oh boy, is politics complicated in this part of the world.

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By Dorian Jones

December 04, 2012

ISTANBUL — Iraqi authorities have denied entry to a plane carrying the Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz en route to Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s largely-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

The incident comes as tensions continue to grow between Baghdad and Ankara.

Speaking to reporters, Yildiz explained the situation. He said they left Istanbul Tuesday to go to northern Iraq for an international energy and natural gas meeting, on a plane provided by the Turkish prime minister’s office. He said they were informed, however, that the northern Iraqi airspace was closed to all private planes.

Yildiz’s plane landed across the border at a Turkish airport. According to Turkish authorities, Baghdad has given no official reason for its action. Tensions have been growing between the countries, though, centering on issues involving Iraqi Kurds.

Energy resources dispute

Iraqi Kurds are in dispute with Baghdad over the control and distribution of Iraq’s rich energy resources. The years-long dispute has seen the regional Kurdish government in Erbil sign energy contracts directly with international companies, many of which are Turkish.

Iraq’s central government has condemned the deals, claiming they are illegal. The United States also has expressed concern at the speed of economic cooperation between

Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds.

But Ankara has rejected those concerns. Yildiz said his planned visit to the Iraqi Kurdish region was for the benefit of Iraq.

He said the meeting was about the whole of Iraq, whether the north or the south. He said he believes the miscommunications will be resolved.

Deteriorating relations

The deepening economic and political ties between Ankara and Erbil come as relations between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki, continue to plummet.

Erdogan has accused Maliki of seeking to monopolize power, a charge he strongly rejects. Bilateral relations further soured after Turkey provided sanctuary to Iraq’s vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, who was convicted of murder charges in Iraq and is embroiled in a political dispute with Maliki.

Ankara and Baghdad currently are clashing over the standoff between Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish armed forces in northern Iraq.

Erdogan accused Maliki of driving Iraq to civil war. That drew an angry reaction from the Iraqi prime minister, who accused Turkey of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs and not respecting the territorial integrity of Iraq.

via Plane Incident Highlights Tensions Between Iraq, Turkey.