Tue Feb 19, 2013 7:43AM
Turkey has reportedly struck a massive oil and gas agreement with Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, a move that would strain Ankara’s ties with the US and the central government in Baghdad. According to a Monday report by The New York Times the Kurds in Iraq have agreed to supply Turkey with at least 10 billion cubic meters of gas every year through a natural gas pipeline whose construction is part of the deal. Turkey have not officially confirmed the deal, which represents a fifth of the country’s current gas consumption. The agreement is a major bone of contention between Turkey and the US, which believes such a measure would put Iraq’s integration in jeopardy by pushing the Kurds in the oil-rich country into the hands of Turks, the report says. "Economic success can help pull Iraq together," US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said earlier this month. But "if Turkey and Iraq fail to optimize their economic relations ... there could be more violent conflict in Iraq and the forces of disintegration within Iraq could be emboldened," he warned. The US envoy added that at the end of the day, the measure would harm the interests of Turkey, the US and the regional countries. Turkey had previously shied away from engagement with Iraqi Kurds fearing their probable efforts for independence on Iraqi soil would embolden the Kurds in Turkey to intensify their three-decade battle for autonomy. But Ankara’s recent attempts at ironing out issues with Kurds to put an end to the long hostility may have convinced them to build up courage and get closer to Iraqi Kurds. The recent deal is also a thorn in the side of Iraq’s central government which tries to block Turkey’s efforts at boosting leverage by planning to become an energy hub in the region. In November, Baghdad prevented Turkish national energy firm TPAO from bidding for an oil exploration contract. And in December, Baghdad barred a plane carrying Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz from landing in Arbil as he was reportedly on his way to seal the much-speculated energy deal. MA/MA