Iraq Begins Oil Flow To Syria
Reports on November 21st that Iraq had resumed oil exports to Syria outside the U.N.-administered oil-for-food program on November 16th have prompted a U.S. State Department inquiry.
A department official said that: “We’ve inquired with the Syrians about these reports – whether they are accurate … We are looking into them through our embassy in Damascus.”
Western diplomats indicated that Syria had earlier assured the U.S. and the U.K. that the Iraqi-Syrian pipeline would not reopen without U.N. approval. On November 15th, a senior U.S. government official had said that the U.S. was not opposed to the reopening of the pipeline, as long as all revenues from the sale of Iraqi crude remain under U.N. control.
A spokesman from the British Foreign Office said on November 21st that: “We need to see the pipeline open as a legal U.N. outlet under the oil-for-food program. This is an illegal contravention of sanctions. We are urging the Syrians that the sales be made legal under oil-for-food.”
A spokesman from the U.N. indicated on November 21st that the U.N. had not been notified by Iraq that it had restarted oil exports through the pipeline, closed since 1982.
Baghdad had said that it would export up to 200,000 b/d of its crude at discounted prices to Syria to be used in domestic refineries, while Syria would export an equivalent amount of Syrian Light and Suwaidiyah crudes at market prices.
Iraq had indicated that the sales to Syria would fall outside of the oil-for-food program, under which Baghdad is allowed to export unlimited quantities of oil in exchange for humanitarian goods.
Under current rules, Iraq is allowed to export its oil through two ports -- Ceyhan in Turkey and Mina al-Bakr in Iraq, and any additional export routes require the approval of the U.N.
Industry sources in Syria said that the Iraqi crude was being transported to storage tanks at domestic refineries, but had not yet been processed.