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LUANDA, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Angolan state oil firm Sonangol has decided to exit Iraq due to security problems in a conflict region where it has operated two fields, a board member said on Tuesday.
Sonangol in 2009 won the right to operate the Qayara and Najmah oilfields in the Nineveh province in Iraq’s northwest, where Sunni Islamist insurgents remain active.
Violence in Iraq climbed to its highest level in five years in 2013, with nearly 9,000 people killed, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations.
“Our presence in Iraq was as an operator in an area with much conflict. Last year we were unable to develop any work due to security matters ... and so we took the decision to leave,” Anabela Fonseca, Sonangol board member in charge of international investments, told a news conference.
She added that the company had made a declaration of force majeure last year, which the Iraqi government accepted, as Sonangol’s costs were rising while it could not develop the fields.
Reserves have been estimated at about 800 million barrels for Qayara and 900 million for Najmah, and Sonangol has a 75 percent stake in both.
Fonseca said an independent technical and financial audit is being conducted to allow Sonangol to end its operations without violating any of its contractual obligations to the Iraqi government. (Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; editing by Jane Baird)