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.” Relations between the two countries had been severed almost two decades ago due to tensions over the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and Baghdad’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but have witnessed a partial thaw in recent years.
Iraq and Syria reopened their borders and resumed limited trade three years ago under the U.N. administered oil-for-food program. On November 1st, Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rasheed had said that an 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.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council Vice Chairman Izzar Ibrahim on November 9th to discuss a range of issues, including the shared pipeline, after industry sources said on November 8th that the pipeline could resume pumping in two to four weeks, once a technical inspection was completed.
It appears that the high-level Syrian-Iraqi meeting was 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.
Iraq plans to export 200,000 b/d of Basrah Light crude at a discounted price to Damascus to be used in domestic refineries, while Syrian oil marketer Sytrol will export an equivalent amount of Syrian Light and Suwaidiyah crudes into the Mediterranean market.
The line would initially be restarted at a rate of 100,000 b/d and then gradually increased to 200,000 b/d. Baghdad has 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.