by Oğuzhan Akyener & Burak Kayael:
Northern Iraq, with the popular name Kurdish Region, by having an estimated 40 billion bbl oil and 8 tcm gas reserves (according to OPEC reports), is a strategic region for Turkey. In addition to oil and gas reserves, other key factors such as historical background, terrorism, ethnical properties, existing disputes with the central Iraqi government, Iran and other countries’ strategies in the region affect the positioning of Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Turkish foreign affairs.
In the last decade, new Turkish strategy on improving the social, commercial and political relationships with the KRG made Turkey the most important strategic partner for the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Hence, by neglecting the illegal or unofficial revenue items, sale of oil and gas resources is the vital element for KRG budget. In addition to this fact, by surpassing the Central Iraqi Government (CIG), today the only way for KRG to sell her produced oil to the markets is going through Turkey, via the new built KRG pipeline or via trucks.
As a result of the partnership, today, KRG is exporting around 600 mb/d oil from Ceyhan port of Turkey. Furthermore, many Turkish companies (mostly on construction and food services) are continuing their businesses in KRG governed areas. By estimating the increasing export volumes of oil and by completing the related infrastructures in the upcoming years, gas volumes will result in a stronger KRG and more solid relations with Turkey. However, situation of Syria, and other effects such as Iran’s influence in the region, continuing disputes of KRG with CIG, terrorism and ethnical risks for Turkey may change and challenge all the scenarios that have been written. That is why all the items mentioned above also have to be taken into consideration while estimating the future partnerships and interactions between the partners.
As described above, oil and gas resources are the vital elements for KRG and her relations with Turkey. In addition, possible cheaper gas import potential for Turkey from KRG can be important in the future. That is why, in this study, current position of Turkey in Kurdistan will be specified and future possibilities will be analyzed after making an overview of KRG, Iraq and the oil and gas market in Kurdish Region.