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Iraq 'Optimistic' Over Ending Kurdish Oil Dispute

Iraq's oil minister says Baghdad is optimistic about resolving a long-running dispute over plans by the country's autonomous Kurdish region to export oil to international markets through Turkey.

Oil Minister Abdelkarim al-Luaybi said Tuesday Iraq hoped to export 3.4 million barrels per day of crude oil next year, including 400,000 from Iraqi Kurdistan - an area still relatively free of the upsurge in violence rocking other parts of the country.

Turkey also said an agreement would be hammered out to end the dispute, which revolves around Baghdad's insistence that all energy sales should take place through Iraq's central government.

On Monday, Kurdish officials agreed to supply Turkey with oil through a pipeline in a landmark deal that Baghdad considers illegal and refused to approve.

As a result, Kurdish officials did not begin shipping pipeline oil as expected and Turkey pledged to organize trilateral talks between Erbil, Baghdad and Ankara to resolve the issue.

The oil accords with Turkey - potentially worth billions of dollars - are part of a broader effort by Iraqi Kurds in recent years to forge their own energy deals with foreign companies, bypassing the central government.

Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Institute in Brussels, said energy cooperation between Ankara and the Kurdistan Regional Government is deepening, and shipments could start soon.

U.S. and Iraqi officials fear the flow of oil to Turkey may eventually lead to an independent Kurdistan and the break up of the Iraqi state.

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