The Chinese delegation in talks with Kurdish officials. Photo: KRG
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – China is set to become the fifth and final permanent member of the UN Security Council to open an official representation in the Kurdistan Region, with the arrival of the consul general in Erbil.
“There’s chaos in some parts of Iraq, but business in Kurdistan is moving forward,” said Karwan Jamal Tahir, the Kurdish foreign relations official who welcomed Consul General Tan Bang Len on Wednesday.
Tan’s arrival coincided with news reports that the semi-autonomous region was in negotiations with China, the world’s second-largest economy, for the sale of $4 million worth of oil – though the potential buyer has not been identified.
The Reuters news agency reported that three tankers bearing Kurdish crude have sailed toward Asia in the last month, including one that unloaded its cargo onto a supertanker outside of Singapore earlier this week.
Kurdistan has begun independent oil sales, which are vehemently opposed by Baghdad as “illegal.” So far, buyers of Kurdish oil have preferred to remain anonymous.
The consul’s long anticipated arrival comes after years of planning by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Chinese authorities. Tan will visit Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani during a weeklong stay; KRG officials indicate he will return once a consulate is set up before the end of the year.
The Kurdish Foreign Ministry stated that Chinese officials were very interested in the condition of Iraq’s internally displaced persons (IDPs), and that they expressed interest in providing humanitarian aid in the near future.
According to an official government directory, 17 Chinese companies are currently operating in the Kurdistan Region, including DQE, an oil and gas service company, and Beijing-based Sinopec, a state-owned energy giant that is the world’s fifth-largest company by revenue.
Sinopec entered the Kurdish market in 2009 when it took over Addax Petroleum, which had assets in Kurdistan’s Taq Taq field, as well as Africa. Sold for $7.2 billion, this was the largest-ever international takeover by a Chinese oil and gas firm.
China will be the 32nd country with a representation in Iraqi Kurdistan. Other countries such as Kuwait and Bulgaria are waiting for their paperwork to be approved in Baghdad.