Israel has bought as much as three-quarters of its oil from Iraq in recent months, according to a report in the Financial Times.
The FT report, which cited shipping data, trading sources and satellite tanker tracking, said that the Israeli refineries and oil firms have imported more than 19 million barrels of Kurdish oil over the course of three months, from the beginning of May till August 11 of this year.
The sales which are worth $1 billion, are a vital source of income to Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish north as it fights militants of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group. More than a third of all northern Iraqi oil exports, shipped from the Turkish port of Ceyhan are said to have gone to Israel during that time.
The report has cited analysts that have suggested the Israeli government could be buying the oil at a discounted price, while others say this might be a way for the entity to support the Kurds financially.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials denied selling oil to the Israelis:
“We do not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders,” a senior Kurdish government adviser was quoted as saying in the report.
“Our priority is getting the cash to fund our Peshmerga forces against ISIL and to pay civil servant salaries.”
The World Bulletin news website said, citing a Reuters report, that Israel started oil purchases from northern Iraq in June 2014.
The Liberian-registered SCF Altai tanker delivered a cargo of a million barrels of disputed crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan’s pipeline for the first time on June 20.
The Iraqi government said that the oil belongs to Iraq and can only be sold through Iraq’s Petroleum Ministry.
Late last year the Iraqi government reached a deal with the Kurds to end the dispute over the Kurdish oil exports and civil service payments from Baghdad.
Both sides agreed to jointly export the oil. A budget crisis with the government inadvertently resulted in the KRG selling more oil on its own.