Iraq, Syria to reopen oil pipeline in November
Iraq and Syria have agreed to reopen the crude oil pipeline between the two countries in November, after an 18-year closure, the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) said Tuesday.
The Cyprus-based specialist newsletter said the pipeline will reopen in "November, probably around the middle of the month".
Iraq will export to Syria around 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude through the pipeline, which has been closed since 1982, MEES quoted authoritative sources as saying.
Syria will use the Iraqi oil in its domestic refineries, freeing up an equivalent amount of Syrian crude for export, it said.
"Syria's decision to import Iraqi crude oil -- and in the past few days it has already started receiving fuel oil -- outside the UN-sponsored oil-for-food programme follows the example of its neighbours Jordan and Turkey," MEES said.
Iraq, which has been under sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, already exports up to 250,000 bpd of crude and other oil products to Jordan and Turkey outside the programme.
The programme, launched at the end of 1996 to ease the burden of sanctions on Iraq's 22-million population, allows Baghdad to export crude under strict UN supervision to finance imports of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies.
MEES said Iraqi technicians had repaired a stretch of the pipeline system in both countries and that it had originally planned to start the pumping at an earlier date.
But following technical problems due to leaks at high pressure during testing, it was decided to carry out further tests and repairs before starting commercial operations.
Baghdad and Damascus agreed in July 1998 to restart the pipeline that can run up to 1.1 million bpd from the northern Iraqi oilfields of Kirkuk to Banias, a Syrian port on the Mediterranean.
Damascus closed the pipeline in 1982 after siding with Iran in its 1980-1988 war against Iraq.
Iraq and Syria, ruled by rival branches of the Baath Party, broke off diplomatic relations in 1980, but began to normalize links in 1997 through economic cooperation, opening their border to businessman and government officials.
Baghdad opened an interest section in Damascus last April.AFP
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)