BAGHDAD, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Iraq has the right to take legal action against oil companies exporting crude without dealing with the central government, including confiscating cargoes and suing sellers, buyers and transporters, the state-run SOMO oil company said on Thursday.
A SOMO statement made no reference to any company, but it was released after Genel Energy said Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region had given permission for the company to deliver some crude directly by truck to Turkey.
Baghdad says only the central government has authority to export crude and sign oil deals. But Kurdistan says the constitution allows it to agree to contracts. It has signed with oil majors such as Exxon Mobil, angering Iraq officials who deem the Kurdish agreements unconstitutional.
“The Iraqi Ministry of Oil and SOMO, shall reserve the right to take all legal actions against any company or entity that deal with bodies other than SOMO in addition to the confiscation of cargoes smuggled across borders as well as suing sellers, purchasers and transporters,” it said.
Crude reserves are at the heart of a wider dispute over territory, oilfields and political autonomy between Baghdad and the Kurdistan enclave in the country’s north, where ethnic Kurds run their own regional government.
Genel Energy said on Wednesday trucked exports from the Anglo-Turkish company’s Taq Taq oilfield in Kurdistan could reach 20,000 barrels per day in a few weeks after starting with relatively small amounts.
The move to truck oil directly to Turkey came after Kurdistan exports were halted through the Baghdad-controlled Iraq-Turkey pipeline because of a dispute over central government payments to oil companies working in Kurdistan.
Baghdad has made one payment to companies, but Iraqi officials said last month they would not pay oil firms a second portion because Kurdistan had failed to reach agreed production under a deal made in September.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is now negotiating for a pipeline to connect Kurdistan oilfields directly with Turkey, which would be a major step for the autonomous region to break its reliance on Baghdad’s pipeline for export of its crude.