Turkey considers increasing oil flow from Iraqi pipeline
Turkey is seeking to increase the oil flow from a pipeline from Iraq to full capacity and has sent a technical delegation to its embargo-hit southern neighbour to look into the possibilty, the head of Turkey's state-run oil company BOTAS said Wednesday.
"The energy minister (Cumhur Ersumer) gave orders a few days ago to make the pipeline ready for full operation," BOTAS chief Gokhan Yardim told the all-news NTV channel in live interview.
He added that a four-man BOTAS team was currently in Iraq inspecting pumping stations and oil holding tanks at Kirkuk, from where the pipeline runs to the Turkish-port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.
The 986-kilometre (611-mile) twin pipeline, with an annual capacity of 71 million tones, was officially closed to operation in 1990 after the United Nations slapped a trade embargo on Baghdad for its invasion of Kuwait that year.
The pipeline was opened to limited deliveries in 1996 under a U.N.-supervised oil-for-food programme which allows Iraq to export crude oil in return for essential goods.
"The pipeline is currently operating with a 60-percent capacity. Iraq is pumping an average of 1 million barrels of oil per day under U.N control and supervision," Yardim added.
In December last year, the UN Security Council lifted a ceiling on the dollar value of Iraq's oil exports and doubled the amount of spare parts it can import for the sanctions-hit oil industry to $1.2 billion a year.
Ankara's move on the Iraqi pipeline coincides with a debate in the U.S. House of Representatives of a draft resolution recognizing the killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The draft bill has unleashed an angry reaction from Turkey which has warned that its adoption would harm its ties with key ally Washington and efforts to normalize Ankara's strained relations with Yerevan.
But Turkish officials have repeatedly stressed that Ankara's efforts to boost its ties with Baghdad, including the plans for the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, could not be linked to the US bill on the Armenian genocide.
"The capacity of the Kirkuk pipeline is in proportion to the sale of the oil pumped through the conduit, and the UN Security Council takes the decisions on the capacity of the pipeline," ministry spokesman Huseyin Dirioz told a press conference here.
"So, it does not constitute an opportunity for Ankara to give a message to Washington on the Armenian bill," he added.
Dirioz also said that Ankara was currently mulling the idea of opening a second border gate with Iraq, but added that the move was also not linked to the Armenian bill.
"We expect the trade between Turkey and Iraq to liven up if the situation in Iraq normalizes. In consideration of this we are evaluating the possible oppurtunities a second border gate might offer," the spokesman said.
Turkey has already cancelled two high-level visits to the United States and warned that US armsmakers might be kept out of lucrative defense contracts if the genocide bill goes through.
Armenia maintains that up to 1.3 million of its people were massacred in 1915, while Turkey puts the figure at around 300,000.
Ankara categorically rejects claims of genocide and counters that thousands of Turks also died in what was internal fighting during the dissolution years of the Ottoman Empire. – (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)