Forces near North Oil Company in Kirkuk. Photo: Rudaw TV
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region –The spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has called the deployment of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) forces to the North Oil Company in Kirkuk "illegal, irresponsible, and provocative."
Earlier in the day, a Kurdish force entered North Oil Company (NOC) in Kirkuk to show Baghdad that Kirkuk’s oil is for its people, a PUK official said.
"Deployment of troops in Kirkuk is to show Baghdad, Kirkuk's oil is for the people of Kirkuk," Aso Mamand, the Head of PUK's office in Kirkuk, said at a press conference on Thursday. "We have deployed troops to prevent Baghdad from exporting Kirkuk’s oil to Mosul and Baghdad. Baghdad wants to export Kirkuk’s oil for the rest of Iraq while our people are in desperate need for it.
"There has been a plot to exploit the people of Kirkuk. What we did today was an expression of the grudge of Kirkuk people against them."
The force has controlled a pump station where extracted oil is stored from the oilfields, and its main purpose of the station is to export it to the Ceyhan port through a pipeline, Rudaw sources reported.
“We will give Baghdad one week to retract its decision to export additional oil from Kirkuk to the rest of Iraq," Mamand said. "If Baghdad does not meet our demands within one week, we will expel North Oil Company’s officials. The Kurdistan Regional Government also [in addition to the Iraqi government] exploits the people of Kirkuk.”
KRG’s spokesperson Safeen Dizayee said it was unnecessary and irresponsible.
"Today's storming of the North Oil Company in Kirkuk was provocative and an irresponsible local behaviour," Dizayee told Rudaw late Thursday night. "It was not necessary to take this irresponsible step."
Dizayee stressed that there is an agreement between the KRG and the Iraqi government regarding the export of Kirkuk oil, noting that the local government in Kirkuk is also involved in the agreement.
"The Kirkuk oil is run based on an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad with the involvement of Kirkuk. That is why this behavior is irresponsible and illegal. We hope that acts like will never be repeated."
Unknown forces enter North Oil Company in Kirkuk
A Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official told Rudaw that the force is of the PUK.
“Last night we had knowledge that the force would be moved and they have done it unilaterally,” said Mohammed Khurshid, head of the KDP branch in Kirkuk, referring to the PUK.
Khurshid added that the PUK officials have informed them that they would withdraw their forces, but did not explain why they moved the force and broke into the place.
Rudaw also contacted Simko Mohammed, spokesperson of the PUK Asayesh (Kurdish security) force to comment, but he also said he did not have knowledge of it.
Ahmed Askari, the head of Kirkuk's Oil, Energy and Industry Committee in the Kirkuk Provincial Council confirmed the news to Rudaw, but did not provide further information.
The reported events come as the Governor of Kirkuk Najmaldin Karim is in the United States and has not yet returned to the city.
“They ordered the shutdown of the pumping station for security reasons and that caused a halt of Kirkuk oil exports to Turkey,” Reuters reported a senior executive from the state-run North Oil Company as saying.
Asim Jihad, spokesperson of the Iraqi oil ministry said he was unaware of the incident.
NOC is a state company within the Ministry of Oil of Iraq. It operates in oil and gas production in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Erbil, Baghdad, and Diyala provinces as well as in parts of Hilla and Kut.
Under the terms of the 2014 December agreement between Erbil and Baghdad, NOC will export only parts of its oil through Kurdish pipelines to the Turkish Ceyhan port in return for KRG administrating larger portions of the oil production in the province.
In the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) latest visit to Baghdad in 2016, it was agreed that the oil under Baghdad control in Kirkuk would be exported through the Kurdistan Region and half the revenue would go to the region.
In the meantime, Baghdad has said in the past it was committed to abide an OPEC agreement to reduce its oil exportations, including that of Kirkuk.
On Feb. 20, the Iraqi oil ministry announced it signed a memorandum of understanding with Tehran to study the export of part of Kirkuk’s oil through a pipeline to Iran.
Currently, the Kirkuk oil is being exported to the world market through the Ceyhan port in Turkey. Two oilfields in Kirkuk are under the control of the KRG and three are run by Iraq’s the North Oil Company.
The KRG exports 150,000 barrels of oil per day from Bai Hassan and Havana oilfields. The Iraqi government produces a similar number.