Erbil, Reuters—Kurdistan has not agreed to export crude via Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), a spokesman for the autonomous region’s government said on Thursday, contradicting earlier comments by a top energy official in Baghdad.
Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussein Al-Shahristani said in a televised interview late on Wednesday that the Kurds had agreed to export through SOMO, which would have removed a major sticking point between them over oil exports.
“After hours of meetings, we have agreed that our brothers in the region will be represented in SOMO and agreed that this is the sole national outlet responsible for exporting oil,” he said. “This is an important step forward.”
But Kurdistan Regional Government spokesman Safeen Dizayee said on Thursday that was not the case. “Absolutely we have not reached any agreement to export oil via SOMO. The dialogue and discussions are still underway.”
Dizayee described the talks as “useful” and said Kurdistan now awaited a written response from Baghdad to unspecified proposals made by the Kurdish delegation.
Kurdistan’s prime minister and top energy official had travelled to Baghdad for talks earlier this week, intensifying efforts to settle the long-running dispute over exports of oil from the region via a new independent pipeline to Turkey.
Baghdad has repeatedly threatened to sue Ankara and slash Kurdistan’s share of the national budget if exports go ahead through the pipeline without its consent.
The pipeline was completed late last year, and oil has since been pumped through it into storage tanks at Turkey’s Ceyhan while a multi-billion dollar energy deal with Ankara is being negotiated, but exports from the Mediterranean port are on hold to give diplomacy a chance.
Crude from Kurdistan used to reach world markets through a Baghdad-controlled pipeline, but exports via that channel dried up due to a row over payments for oil companies operating in the northern enclave.
Negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil have been ongoing for months with little progress.