An Iraqi-Syrian pipeline, closed since 1982 as a result of tensions between the two countries over the Iran-Iraq War, could resume pumping in two to four weeks after a technical inspection is completed, according to industry sources on November 8th.
Technical experts from Baghdad and Damascus met last week to discuss the inspection, and sources suggest that the reopening of the pipeline is delayed only by the need for technical evaluation.
Iraqi Oil Minister Amer Rasheed had said on November 1st that the pipeline could be reopened in a matter of days, but that Baghdad was awaiting Syrian approval to begin pumping. Baghdad and Damascus had signed an agreement in July 1998 to reopen the line.
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 cruds 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.
Under current rules, Iraq is allowed to export its oil through Ceyhan in Turkey and Mina al-Bakr in Iraq.
Any additional export routes require the approval of the U.N., which committee members have suggested is unlikely for a number of reasons, including that Baghdad’s current production capacity doesn’t justify a third export option.
Washington and London are expected to oppose any additional exports outside of the humanitarian program on the grounds that doing so would deprive the Iraqi people of much-needed supplies.