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Iraqi, Syrian oil ministers discuss gas imports

The Iraqi and Syrian oil ministers talked about the possibility of transporting Egyptian gas to Iraq through Syria during a meeting in Baghdad.
Iraq's oil minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar (C) attends the inauguration of a new gas compressor station in the Rumaylah oil field near Iraq's southern port city of Basra on Feb. 28, 2021.

The Iraqi and Syrian oil ministers met in Baghdad on Thursday to discuss the importation of Egyptian gas and enhanced energy cooperation between Iraq and Syria. 

Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar Ismail hosted his Syrian counterpart Bassem Touma for an official visit. The two discussed the possibility of transporting Egyptian gas to Syria and then overland to Iraq. They also talked about strengthening energy cooperation, holding joint training and sharing information, according to a press release from Iraq’s Oil Ministry. 

Iraq is rich in oil, but is heavily dependent on neighboring Iran for natural gas and electricity. The gas is especially needed for power plants in summer when people rely on cooling systems in the scorching heat. In recent years, Iraq has sought to obtain gas from elsewhere, particularly Egypt and Qatar

The United States sanctions countries who import Iranian gas, and Iraq had to receive waivers from Washington during the Trump administration. Though the United States may soon remove some of these sanctions under President Joe Biden, Iraq may still see benefits in weaning itself off Iranian gas. Iraq’s current gas exemption to the Iran sanctions is valid through July. 

The Iraqi news outlet Shafaq News reported Thursday that a deal between Iraq and Syria allowing the movement of gas to Iraq could come to fruition soon; the news agency cited a press conference held by Ismail and Touma. 

The meeting was a sign of improving relations between Iraq and Syria in recent years. The two states also coordinated with one another on attacks on the Islamic State in Syria in 2019. 

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