(Updates with quotes, details)
By Orhan Coskun and Humeyra Pamuk
ANKARA, June 16 As Iraq struggles to stop an
insurgency by Islamist militants, its autonomous region
Kurdistan is ramping up independent oil exports, with a third
tanker set to load a cargo of crude from its disputed pipeline.
The third tanker is scheduled to depart Turkey's
Mediterranean port of Ceyhan on June 22 carrying oil pumped
through Kurdistan's new pipeline, which by-passes Baghdad,
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Monday.
Iraqi Kurdistan began independent pipeline exports via
Turkey in May, despite protests from Baghdad which claims it has
the sole authority to sell Iraqi oil via state-marketer SOMO.
Oil flows through the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG)
pipeline to Turkey have continued uninterrupted despite a
lighting advance by Sunni militants in northern Iraq that
threatens to dismember the OPEC country.
"A third tanker is scheduled for June 22 to export the oil
coming from northern Iraq," Yildiz told reporters. Energy
officials said the tanker will be carrying 1 million barrels of
But Yildiz declined to elaborate on the buyer. "Iraq is
carrying out the tender and the sale for this oil... That's why
we don't go into the 'which country did it sell, when did it
sell' types of issues."
The oil is loading despite previous setbacks to the KRG's
attempts to sell this controversial oil. Its first exports have
still not discharged for a refinery.
Baghdad's threats of legal action and the black-listing of
buyers has dissuaded most from touching Kurdistan's new crude
The KRG's exports of smaller quantities of trucked oil has
found many buyers but the central government is focussed on
catching those who touch the larger pipeline exports.
The first tanker, the United Leadership, is still lingering
off the Moroccan coast after it attempted to deliver oil to the
North African country's Mohammedia refinery at the start of this
month. The government told the vessel, laden with 1 million
barrels of oil, to vacate its waters pending a final decision.
The second tanker, the United Emblem, sailed from Ceyhan to
Malta last week, but the buyer of this cargo remained unclear.
After the first tanker loaded, the central government in
Baghdad filed a case for arbitration with the International
Chamber of Commerce (ICC) against Turkey and its state-run
pipeline operator BOTAS, saying the obligations under the
Iraq-Turkey Pipeline Agreement were breached.
Iraq and Kurdistan have been trying to reach a political
agreement over oil sales, but five months after the startup of
KRG pipeline, there still had been no final decision, prompting
the regional government to go it alone.
(Writing by Humeyra Pamuk and Julia Payne, Editing by Nick