Iraq Oil-Refinery Plans Raise Arab-Kurdish Tensions

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The Arab community in Nineveh is opposing plans to build a new oil refinery in an area it claims is under occupation by Iraqi Kurdistan, writes Bassem Francis.

The Justice and Reform Movement in Nineveh has refused to build an oil refinery in a region they see as being “occupied by Kurdistan and monopolized by an affiliated company.” Meanwhile, a member who supports the project declared that those objecting to the establishment of the refinery link everything to politics, particularly given that provincial elections are imminent.

Two days ago, Nineveh’s provincial council postponed its session due to the lack of a quorum, as the Justice and Reform Movement — along with the representatives of the Shabak, Yezidis and the Islamic Party — withdrew in objection to the insertion of a law pertaining to the establishment of the oil refinery. During a press conference, the demurring parties expressed their objection to “establishing a project in a region under the occupation of Kurdistan.”

“Five months ago, the governor signed a memorandum of understanding with a company to establish an oil refinery. In a letter addressed to the council, he confirmed that this memorandum was not deemed legal until ratified, reiterating that it only tackles technical details and assured us that regardless of our aspirations, the final decision on the location was up to the Oil Ministry to make,” Sheikh Salem Arab, a member of the council, told Al-Hayat.

“We support the establishment of an oil refinery to solve the dire fuel crisis. The province will exclusively benefit from the products. This is a legal matter, for regardless of where the refinery is located, it will function under the auspices of that province. Some of the managerial bodies are cooperating again with the council, and even if the refinery is established in one of the disputed territories, why deprive the citizens of such a service?” he added.

Arab clarified that those who “withdrew from the session are linking all matters to politics.” He noted, “Due to the lack of a quorum, the memorandum was not passed.”

Khadida Khalaf, a Yazidi member of the council, said that “the province has chosen to build the refinery in either Makhmur or Ainzala, both areas that are disputed with Erbil. The problem is that the project will be an investment for the region in which it was established. Its products will be sold according to local market prices.”

“The purpose of this project is political. The investor is the Kurdish oil company KAR, which established the gas and oil pipeline between Erbil and Duhok using the province’s land without authorization. Therefore, we question its legality,” he added.

Khalaf noted, “The province has given permission to a company to build 20,000 residential units. Some time has passed and not a single apartment has been built. Oil matters are related to the central government, if it issues a decision, we will not oppose it. The province lacks the necessary expertise to study the project.”

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Found in: oil & gas, oil, kurdistan, kurdish oil, krg, iraqi oil, iraq, economic
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