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Obstacles remain after Turkey signals pipeline is ready

Northern exports can only come online if Baghdad strikes new political and commercial agreements.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (standing, center right) and KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani (standing, center left) oversee a ceremony in Baghdad on April 4, 2023, to sign a temporary deal for restarting northern oil exports. (Photo credit: Prime Minister's Office)

Turkey is now ready to restart Iraq's northern oil exports, ushering in a new phase of uncertainty that highlights several other political and commercial obstacles still blocking 475,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from global markets.

In remarks to a conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday, Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said that "as of today, the pipeline is ready to operate" and predicated that exports could restart "within this week."

But, according to several government and industry officials in Baghdad and Erbil, the green light from Ankara is only one of the many conditions that must be met for crude to flow. Also needed are various agreements involving the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the oil companies that operate under contracts with the KRG, the federal Iraqi authorities that are now solely authorized to sell crude via the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline (ITP), and crude buyers.

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