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Oil Resumes After PKK Attack Halted Flow to Turkey

Oil resumed moving through the Kirkuk--Ceyhan pipeline after a Kurdish rebel attack over the weekend temporarily halted the flow.
By Avi Yellin
First Publish: 7/5/2010, 8:11 PM / Last Update: 7/6/2010, 9:29 AM

Israle news photo Creative Commons

Oil resumed flowing on Monday from Iraqi Kurdistan’s Kirkuk oil fields into the Turkish export terminal at Ceyhan, following a suspension of two days resulting from an attack on the pipeline in Turkish occupied northern Kurdistan over the weekend. A bomb, reportedly planted by Kurdish resistance fighters, had temporarily halted pumping on the Kirkuk to Ceyhan pipeline.

The bombing by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) added a new dimension to the threats against the pipeline, which carries around a quarter of Iraq's oil exports.

PKK guerillas have stepped up attacks on the Turkish military and Turkish interests after ending a 14-month ceasefire in June. More than 80 soldiers have been killed so far – more than the total in 2009 – in one of the decades-old conflict’s deadliest offensives in recent years.

According to Turkish security sources, the explosion late Saturday took place near the town of Midyat in Mardin province near where Turkish rule ends and Syrian control begins. A repair crew from Turkey's state-run pipeline operator BOTAS worked all day Sunday and through the night until Monday in order to repair the pipeline so that pumping can resume.

Compounding the problem was a technical problem on the pipeline on the Iraqi side of the border that had halted pumping late last Thursday and had been taking longer than expected to fix, sources at Iraq's North Oil Company reported.

The 960 km pipeline carries an average 500,000 barrels of oil per day from oilfields around Kirkuk to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, where it is loaded onto tankers for export.

Sabotage and technical problems kept the Iraq-Turkey route mostly out of operation from the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 until 2007.

Security has improved but insurgents still occasionally target the pipeline, which also suffers frequent technical issues as a result of its age and poor maintenance over the years. Attacks on the Turkish side of the border had until now been far less common.

Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s jailed leader, has meanwhile released a statement saying that peace between his fighters and Turkey was possible if Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan agreed to reform his country’s constitution and abolish oppressive laws in Turkish occupied northern Kurdistan.