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Untangling the Turkey-KRG Energy Partnership: Looking Beyond Economic Drivers


For decades, Turkey viewed Iraq primarily through the lens of its own Kurdish problem. In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, Ankara shunned direct contact with Iraqi Kurds and opposed the incorporation of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk into a Kurdish federal state, fearing that it would strengthen Iraqi Kurds' drive for independence and lead to similar demands on the part of Turkey’s own Kurdish community. But Turkey's Iraq policy began to shift in late 2008 under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Past tensions have been supplanted by a new energy partnership. In May 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cut a deal to build one gas and two oil pipelines directly from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. Turkey's recent energy partnership with the KRG is not driven solely by energy considerations but has become an essential component of Turkey's regional strategic outlook. Changing regional and domestic dynamics have pushed Turkey to recalibrate its Iraq policy, making the KRG a strategic ally as an alternative source of energy, a buffer against a hostile Baghdad and Iran, and a partner in Turkey’s quest to resolve its Kurdish problem. This article discusses the domestic and regional factors that led to this sea change and Turkey's energy policy as a response to these changes.

Paper produced within the framework of the project Turkey, Europe and the World. Publ. in IAI Research Paper 13.

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