Turkey eyes northern Iraqi oil
Turkey is examining old international treaties to determine what rights it has over oil fields in northern Iraq. "If
we do have rights... we have to explain that to the international community and our partners and secure those
rights," foreign minister Yasar Yakis said. “We have to examine whether there has been anything in later years
that cancelled out those rights.”
But he added that Turkey had no intention of claiming the fields for itself and that Iraq should maintain control. The comments have been interpreted as a signal to Iraqi Kurds that Turkey would not condone a bid to establish a separate state in the event of a US-led war.
Turkey's state-oil company in September 2001 was granted permission by the UN Security Council to begin exploratory
drilling in oil-rich areas north of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. "This is a sensitive issue for us. We are discussing it
with the United States. They say every time that they understand our worries and share our views," Mr Yakis was
quoted as saying. He said treaties from the 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, were being examined
to see if Turkey had a legal claim to oilfields around the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.
Iraq's oil fields are considered to be the world's second largest after Saudi Arabia. "We are having that examined now. In other words we have to examine whether there has been anything in later years that cancelled out those rights," he said.
Mr Yakis added that Turkey was trying to protect its own interests as well as those of the Turkish-speaking minority
in northern Iraq. Turkey maintains a heavy military presence in northern Iraq, which is covered by a US and British
no-fly zone, to control Kurdish separatists.
Northern Iraq has been under the control of Kurdish groups, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which is closely allied with Ankara, since the end of the 1991 Gulf War. The state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO), which produces 90 % of Turkey's oil, has the right to drill 20 wells in the KDP areas.
But Baghdad has repeatedly condemned the military occupation and asked the UN to demand a withdrawal. Iraq operates oilfields near the town of Kirkuk just south of the Kurdish-held areas.