U.S. Says Iraqi-Syrian Line Must Be Under U.N. Control
The U.S. is not opposed to the reopening of the Iraqi-Syrian pipeline, as long as all revenues from the sale of Iraqi crude remain under U.N. control, according to a U.S. State Department official on November 15th.
The official said that: “We’ve been in intense discussions with the government in Damascus. We are not opposed to oil going through the pipeline as long as it meets the [U.N.] export regime controls.”
He added that: “As long as the money is put into the U.N. system, we don’t have a problem.” On November 1st, Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rasheed had said that the Iraqi-Syrian pipeline, closed since 1982, could be reopened in a matter of days, pending Syrian approval, after Baghdad and Damascus had signed an agreement in 1998 to restart the line.
Baghdad had indicated that the exports to Syria would fall outside of the U.N.-administered oil-for-food program, under which Iraq is allowed to export unlimited amounts of oil in exchange for humanitarian goods.
U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1284, which established the oil-for-food program, stipulates only two export routes for Iraqi crude -- Ceyhan in Turkey and Mina al-Bakr in Iraq.
Any additional export routes require the approval of the sanctions committee, which Western diplomats had suggested in the past was unlikely for a number of reasons, including that Baghdad’s crude production levels do not justify a third export outlet.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said on November 15th that Damascus plans to resume full diplomatic relations with Baghdad. Al-Shara said that: “Over two years ago we started ties with our Iraqi brothers. We realize that these ties are sensitive and we should succeed in building them step by step.”
A recent meeting between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council Vice Chairman Izzar Ibrahim on November 9th to discuss a range of issues, including the shared pipeline, appears to have been instrumental in Damascus’ announcement to upgrade its relations with Baghdad and may be a result, in part, of Syria’s displeasure with Washington on the Middle East peace front.