Iraq warns Turkey over Kurdistan pipeline deal

Kurdistan Regional Government Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami (R) shakes hands with Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz (20 May 2012) Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government has signed several oil deals

Iraq's government has warned Turkey it needs Baghdad's permission to build new pipelines carrying oil and gas from the Kurdish autonomous region in the north.

Turkey made the deal directly with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Sunday, without Baghdad's approval.

Relations between Baghdad and Ankara have deteriorated sharply recently.

Instead, Turkey is focusing on closer ties with the KRG, which is locked in a dispute with Iraq's central government over who can sell the country's oil.

'Provocative'

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says Turkey's decade-long strategy of building friendly, trade-based relations with all its neighbours is unravelling fast.

It is heavily embroiled in efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a leader it once courted. Its ties with Iran have also cooled, over that country's nuclear ambitions, Syria, and Turkey's decision to host part of Nato's missile defence shield, our correspondent says.

Now its problems with Iraq are multiplying, he adds.

Turkey is sheltering the fugitive Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, the most senior Sunni Arab politician in Iraq, who has been charged with financing death squads.

Ankara has also accused the Iraqi government, which is dominated by Shia parties, of stirring up sectarian tension.

On Sunday, the Turkish government agreed a controversial deal to pipe oil and gas directly from Kurdistan in the next 12 months, without the approval of the central government in Baghdad. The KRG also said it planned to barter crude oil with refined petroleum products.

Ali al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, criticised the agreement.

"We have no problem with any deals, but they have to be according to the Iraqi constitution and laws that govern relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish region," Mr Moussawi said.

Our correspondent says Turkey certainly needs to diversify its energy supplies away from Iran, which is subject to increasingly strict sanctions.

But, he adds, the pipeline deal is provocative given the KRG is locked in a bitter dispute with Baghdad over who has the authority to sell its oil, and over where pipelines should be built.

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