Sulaymaniyah, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Kurdistan Region Government reiterated its denial that crude oil is smuggled from the Region to Iran. Meanwhile, an MP for the opposition Change Bloc in the Region’s parliament asserted that there is confirmed information that thousands of tones of oil are smuggled to Iran daily. He accused the minister of natural resources and the Region’s government of failing to cooperate to uncover the facts.
However, the official spokesman for the Kurdistan Region Government dismissed the reports that Iraqi crude oil is smuggled to Iran, as was recently reported by the US New York Times Newspaper. The spokesman said: “The report on the export of crude oil from the Kurdistan Region is untrue and baseless.”
Kawah Mahmud, official spokesman for the Kurdistan Region Government, said in a press statement: “The Region’s government issued three licenses to local refineries in Kurdistan in accordance with the Iraqi constitution and the oil and gas law that was passed by the Kurdistan Parliament in 2007 to meet the citizens’ needs of oil products in the Region. The surplus quantities in these refineries are exported abroad under official contracts.”
He added: “The main source of the products that are refined is the major refineries in Iraq, most importantly, the Biji Refinery in the Salah-aldin Governorate and the Al-Dawrah Refinery in Baghdad. These products are exported abroad through the governorates of the Region.”
He noted: “The Iraqi Government sells fuel to the private sector for prices lower than the international price with the aim of supporting the local economy. However, this policy encourages trade in fuel on the borders.”
The spokesman said: “The Region’s government knows that some traders use the Kurdistan border for their trade, but the government, supported by the Region’s President Masud Barzani, will take all measures to make sure that these practices are carried out in accordance with the constitution and international laws.”
He added: “The Region’s government insists on working with the federal government to fight the illegal trade in fuel.”
The official said: “The Region’s government began to export Kurdish oil through the Iraqi pipelines to the Turkish Port of Jihan, and this is the only way through which crude oil can be exported. The policy of the Region’s government that was devised by the natural resources ministry achieved magnificent results. This policy will be used as a vehicle to continue the process of developing the Kurdistan Region.”
Earlier, Ashti Horami, minister of natural resources in the Region’s government, categorically denied that oil products are smuggled from the Region to Iran.
Oil smuggling constitutes a violation of the US and international sanctions against Iran because of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
However, Abdullah Muhammad Nuri, MP for the Change Bloc and member of the Oil and Gas Committee of the Kurdistan Parliament, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We raised this issue in the parliament, but the Region’s government and the natural resources ministry are not willing to cooperate with us to uncover the truth about the accusations that are leveled at the Region.”
Nuri said: “We have confirmed information that thousands of tones of oil are exported to Iran and that hundreds or rather thousands of trucks and tankers queue in line at the border points in Kurdistan everyday to transport these quantities to Iran. Government parties have admitted that there are illegal refineries spread in the Region’s governorates (Arbil, Al-Sulaymaniyah, and Dahuk).”
He added: “The natural resources minister says that crude oil is exported from the Biji and Al-Dawrah refineries through the Kurdistan Region. If this is true, why do the ministry and the Region’s government allow this smuggled oil to pass through their territories at a time when they assert their compliance with the constitution?”
MP Nuri said: “We will follow this case after the parliament’s recess. We will ask the parliament to intervene to uncover the facts of the issue, and if we do not receive support from the government and parliament, we will resort to people’s pressure to uncover these encroachments on the Region’s resources.”
Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Region Government and Iraqi Oil Ministry exchanged accusations yesterday about the daily smuggling of oil to Iran through border outlets in the north and the south.
Ashti Horami, the Region’s minister of natural resources, accused Baghdad of “turning a blind eye to oil smuggling operations from the southern governorates to Abadan, where 100,000 barrels of oil are transported to Iran everyday.”
He said: “Crude oil has not been smuggled to Iran [from the Kurdistan Region] in any way. The oil products that are exported are surplus to the Region’s needs.”
For its part, the Iraqi Oil Ministry dismissed Horami’s statements. It pointed out: “Iraq has well known outlets for the export of crude oil. They are the ports of Basra and Al-Amiyah in the south and the Kirkuk-Jihan Pipeline.”
The ministry said in a statement: Hundreds of tankers were not observed transporting oil to Iran through the southern border points, as Horami claimed. The ministry added: On the contrary, hundreds of trucks and tankers were seen queuing in waiting lines at the [Kurdistan] Region’s border points to transport oil to neighboring states, as was reported by the French News Agency.