Israel has turned to Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region for most of its oil requirements, buying up to three-quarters of its supplies from the region in recent months, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
Iraqi Kurdistan reportedly supplied 19 million barrels of oil to Israel between May and August this year, accounting for three-fourths of Israel’s total consumption. The transaction may be a way for Tel Aviv to secretly support the Kurds in their ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, the report added, citing industry insiders.
However, the Kurdistan Regional Government refuted the report’s claims and said that it had not sold the oil “directly or indirectly” to Israel. It added that its main concern was funding its campaign against ISIS and preserving order in the regions it held.
“We do not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders,” an unnamed Kurdish senior official told the Financial Times. “Our priority is getting the cash to fund our Peshmerga forces against Daesh [ISIS] and to pay civil servants’ salaries.”
The report also expanded on Kurdistan’s role in exporting oil to other European nations, including Italy, France and Greece, noting that traders and industry analysts believed Israel may be purchasing the oil at a discounted price.
In February, a Kurdish tanker known as the United Kalvrvta unloaded 1 million barrels of crude in Israel, despite significant opposition from the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, according to local reports.
Last year, Baghdad and Erbil [the Kurds' capital] reached an agreement to manage their oil exports jointly, trying to end a longstanding dispute. However, Baghdad’s payments to Kurdistan have been hindered by its own financial woes, prompting the Kurds to start selling independently.