ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey and Iraq plan to sign an accord this week to extend the operation of a major oil pipeline six months after they agreed to renew the deal, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Monday.
Yildiz said the deal would be signed after a few “hitches” were resolved, but declined to say what issues had delayed finalisation of the accord to operate the pipeline from Iraq’s northern Kirkuk oilfields to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
“As Iraq exports oil and natural gas, it becomes a country that is increasingly normalising,” he told reporters.
Yildiz may travel to Baghdad on Sunday to sign the agreement, Energy Ministry officials said.
Energy officials from Iraq and Turkey had agreed to renew the accord in March.
The two sides reached consensus after Turkey dropped a proposed clause that would have given it the right to seize oil pending a court ruling on any dispute that might arise over payments, energy officials had said on condition of anonymity.
The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, which opened in 1977, carries about a quarter of Iraqi crude exports from its northern fields to Turkey’s Mediterranean port.
Flows on the key energy corridor are frequently halted due to maintenance problems or sabotage by Turkish or Iraqi insurgents. Security issues left the pipeline mostly idle between 2003 and 2007 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The double-pipe link has a capacity of 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) but normally carries about 500,000 bpd.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz, writing by Ayla Jean Yackley, Editing by Lin Noueihed