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Iraqi politician demands investigation into oil shipments smuggled from Kurdistan region to Israel

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, Iraqi workers are seen at the Rumaila oil refinery, near Basra, situated 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of the capital Baghdad. (Photo by AP)

An Iraqi politician has called on the Baghdad government to open an in-depth investigation into reports that shipments of crude oil had been smuggled out of the country’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to the Israeli-occupied territories.

“The smuggling of oil from Kurdistan to Tel Aviv, which is being carried out under the supervision of ruling parties in Erbil [the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region], is no longer a secret. Three oil tankers are now operating for such a purpose in Turkish ports, and the whole process enjoys the full support of the Turkish government,” independent Kurdish politician Othman Hassan Pasha told the Iraqi Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency on Friday.

He added, “Turkey is involved in the procedure in exchange for large financial discounts,” noting that between 40,000 and 80,000 barrels of crude oil are estimated to arrive at Israeli ports per week.

“The smuggling of oil, which floods the treasury of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) with millions of dollars every day, has adversely affected the lives of millions of Kurds in light of a stifling fuel crisis,” Pasha pointed out.

He further highlighted that “Kurdistan is on the verge of an outburst of public anger against ruling authorities as a result of illegal smuggling of their natural wealth, which has left millions of people in destitution and pushed up the prices of basic commodities.”

According to a Financial Times report, more than two-thirds of Israel's oil are imported from the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The Kurdistan Regional Government has repeatedly denied that it deals directly or indirectly with Israel, with KRG officials pointing out that oil cargoes often change hand several times before reaching its final destination. 

Italy, France and Greece are reportedly big buyers of Kurdish crude, using pre-pay deals brokered by large oil trading companies, the FT reported.

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