Members of the security forces of the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan guard the main gate of the Iraqi North Oil Company in March. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Iraq’s oil ministry has stated
that the Black Force units deployed to the Kirkuk’s state-run oil company in
early March are seeking “political” gains and are complicating problems in the
Spokesperson Asim Jihad commented on the presence of the armed
forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who have been stationed in the
North Oil Company in Kirkuk since early March.
“The deployment of these forces to the North Oil Company has
political factors,” Kirkuk Now news reported Jihad as saying in an interview
that will be published in full later on.
He said it is shows that “the political and nationalist
interest has been put higher than the national interest, and therefore these
procedures will complicate [efforts] in resolving the issues.”
The Kurdish force, backed by all Kurdish parties in Kirkuk,
seeks to force Baghdad to implement an agreement between the Kirkuk governor
and Baghdad reached in January, notably in opening an oil refinery in the
The oil minister said that the plan to invest in Kirkuk’ oil
infrastructure has long been pursued, but the situation in Kirkuk and Iraq is
not helpful at this stage.
He repeated a similar stance taken in early March: The oil
ministry has tried to set up a refinery in Kirkuk, but due to the city’s
security and political situation, no company was ready to go to Kirkuk.
The oil ministry announced back in March that they added a
processing unit to Kirkuk’s oil refinery which increases its capacity by 10,000
barrels a day, perhaps as a response to a key demand from the PUK, other
Kurdish parties in the city, and the local government in Kirkuk.
A senior PUK official has said that they will not withdraw
the Black Force from the site until their demands are met.
In the same recent Kirkuk Now interview, Rawand Mala Mahmud,
deputy head of PUK’s Kirkuk office, was also quoted as saying that the security
situation of Kirkuk’s oil wells is “stable” and they negotiated an agreement
with Baghdad in this regard.
The Kurdish official warned they are ready to respond
militarily if their forces are attacked in Kirkuk’s North Oil Company about 11 kilometers
Head of the security committee of Kirkuk Provincial Council
told Rudaw that the force should remain stationed there until the situation is
“calm” again and ISIS-held Hawija is liberated.
The PUK deployed its Black Force to the Iraqi oil company
NOC that runs several oil fields in the province in early March. It resulted in
halting oil exports for hours in an effort to force Baghdad to commit to an
earlier agreement signed between the local government and Baghdad in January.
Days after the deployment, Kurdish parties in Kirkuk showed
unanimous support for the implementation of the agreement which includes more
investment in the oil sector in Kirkuk and employment opportunities for the
NOC is a state company under Iraq’s Ministry of Oil. It
operates in oil and gas production in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Erbil, Baghdad, and
Diyala provinces as well as in parts of Hilla and Kut.
According to an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad signed
in August 2016 between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister
Nechirvan Barzani and Iraqi Premier Haider al-Abadi, the KRG sells half of the
oil being exported from the North Oil Company to Turkey’s Ceyhan Port and
Baghdad sells a similar proportion.
Currently, Kirkuk oil is being exported to the world market
through the Ceyhan. Two oil fields in Kirkuk are under the control of the KRG
and three are run by the NOC.