Kurds Deny Report of Oil Trade with Israel
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) lost no time denying Reuters reports last Friday, which stated that oil from a disputed independent Kurdish pipeline running through Turkey was set to be delivered to the Israeli port of Ashkelon.
An official from the Kurdish Ministry of Natural Resources told the Kurdish news sources Rudaw last Friday that the report was "baseless and without evidence."
"These media reports are aimed at increasing tensions between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq’s federal government without relying on any evidence or truth," adding the ministry official.
It was reported that the pipeline through which the oil reportedly was being delivered to Israel is a new independent pipeline of the KRG, which bypasses the central Iraqi government by running directly to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
Reportedly the KRG was trying to protect itself through economic independence amid the rapidly crumbling security situation in an Iraq quickly being overrun by Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIS) Islamists.
KRG spokesperson Safin Dizayee was quoted by the Turkish Daily Sabah saying Sunday "we sell our oil to private companies, not to any country directly."
According to the report, the SCF Altai tanker approached Ashkelon on Friday to deliver oil, and was scheduled to dock sometime Saturday. The Kurdish denial would appear to claim the docking in Israel on Saturday was for a sale to private companies instead of to Israel.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces - the KRG's independent army - seized the oil-rich town of Kirkuk in northern Iraq two weeks ago, along with swathes of territory near the Turkish border, as Iraqi troops abandoned their posts when faced by the advancing ISIS forces.
KRG officials had openly entertained the option of redirecting the flow of oil from Kirkuk through the Ceyhan pipeline, particularly after the regular Kirkuk pipeline was sabotaged following the seizure of the city by Kurdish forces.
While the US has opposed the independent Kurdish pipeline, Israel has been more open to the prospect, particular given that Iraq has placed a trade embargo on Israel.