A tanker carrying crude oil from a new pipeline in Iraqi Kurdistan anchored near the Ashkelon port Friday and is set to deliver its cargo early Saturday, as part of a first of its kind interaction between representatives of the autonomous ethnic minority and Israeli companies, Reuters reported.
The SCF Altai was loaded with oil barrels from the Turkish port city of Ceyhan, the final destination of a disputed pipeline designed by Kurds to bypass the Iraqi government. The Kurdish Regional Government’s pipeline, according to Reuters, is currently pumping around 120,000 barrels per day to Ceyhan. The region’s natural resources minister is aiming to export 400,000 barrels a day by the end of the year, Reuters said.
While the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government of Nuri al-Maliki is on its heels, deeply alarmed by the lightning gains achieved over the past weeks by the Sunni militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), for the Kurds, rulers of Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern region, the Iraqi army’s retreat offers new opportunity. The most significant gain they have made so far is to take full control of the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, after rolling in last Thursday with their Peshmerga forces.
Iraqi leaders have heavily discouraged the KRG from selling oil to foreign entities and has even threatened sanctions against buyers, but the Kurds seem intent on establishing a financially independent economy.
The United States opposes sales from the KRG’s oil pipeline. Israel, however, having no dealings with the Iraqi government, hopes the sales would help strengthen ties with the Kurds, in an attempt to secure a new ally in the region, Reuters reported.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report