x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Ankara and Kurdish oil: a policy change

A few days ago, Kurdish oil started pumping directly from the region through export pipelines in a ceremony attended by the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, as the Kurdish president of Kurdistan, wrote Mohammed Noureddine in an opinion column published by the Qatari daily Al Sharq.

A few days ago, Kurdish oil started pumping directly from the region through export pipelines in a ceremony attended by the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, as the Kurdish president of Kurdistan, wrote Mohammed Noureddine in an opinion column published by the Qatari daily Al Sharq.  The event was considered by the Kurds as a historic move that gave them, for the first time, control over the province's oil exports, but most interesting was the fact that the oil was pumped via the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik Turkish pipeline. All the province's oil exports will use the Turkish pipeline, as announced by the executives of the Canadian and Turkish companies in charge of the project.

Turkey, which was opposed to Iraq's invasion, had always refused to deal with its southern Kurdish neighbour through any channel other than the central government in Baghdad and had repeatedly warned against the danger of a Kurdish entity in northern Iraq, seen as an even bigger threat that the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). The ceremony was then highly symbolic and in clear support of the independence of the province and decisions made against the will of Baghdad. How would Ankara explain the decision to open its pipeline to Kurdish oil? Is this a first step towards recognising a Kurdish independent entity or the result of a commitment by the Kurds to combat the PKK?

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a hard lesson for the countires of the Gulf Cooperation Council and their leaders demanded a second chance to build powers that would balance those of Iraq or Iran, wrote Nabyl al Awadi in an opinion article published by the Kuwaiti daily Al Watan.

The leaders were given a better chance than they expected, with incommensurable resources. But after 19 years, Iran is about to build a nuclear bomb; it occupies islands belonging to a GCC state and it is directly threatening the region's leaderships.    If the GCC, as an alliance, is not sufficient in this critical period, then Kuwait should consider a defence treaty with Saudi Arabia. The two countries could join forces in the event of an external aggression from any of their "two neighbours". 

Saudi Arabia represents a natural strategic depth for Kuwait and the two countries' populations share a multitude of common values, religion, traditions, aspirations and dreams, as they share the same external threats. They should enter into a bilateral alliance that would not contradict their GCC membership and carry out military manoeuvres under a joint command.  Saudi Arabia proved to be a second home for Kuwaitis - the government and people - during dire times, so will we see tighter cooperation in the near future?

While many started speculating on the collapse of the Gulf Cooperation Council after the withdrawal of the United Arab Emirates from its planned monetary union, the Council's response was quick and its secretary general announced the signing on Monday of an agreement for the union by member states' foreign ministers, wrote Karim Hamed, in the Bahraini daily Akhbar al Khaleej.

The step will accelerate the ratification process and rapidly lead to the creation of the Gulf Central Bank, which will be followed by the adoption of a single currency. All this should happen before the end of this year. No doubt that the withdrawal of the UAE, the region's second largest economy, was a hard blow to the monetary union, which now includes no more than four countries - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain - but it has at the same time contributed to rapidly pushing the project forward, encouraged by Saudi Arabia.

The rapid move by Saudi Arabia was motivated by a concern that the union might disintegrate should the UAE's withdrawal be followed by other countries. It is also a response to the UAE's decision to pull out after Riyadh was chosen to host the Gulf Central Bank's headquarters and confirms the strength of the Saudi economy, as things would probably have moved at a much slower pace had the UAE decided to remain in the project.

The will of the Israeli government to respond to the US president Barack Obama's clear message sent from Cairo is now the question, stated the Jordanian daily Al Rai in its editorial.  The US president said the two-state solution was the only way out of the region's long and murderous conflict. This implies that Israel has to commit to previous agreements which call for a complete halt of all settlements and to stop using the natural expansion argument put forward by the successive governments to confiscate more Palestinian land.

Israel will have to stop pretending to work for peace and reiterating its readiness to make painful concessions while on the ground it expands its control over water sources, builds more checkpoints and divides the occupied West Bank. In addition, the separation wall and the construction projects in the zone known as E1 buries all hopes for the establishment of a Palestinian independent state. The government of Israel is now faced with only two choices; either to accept the two-state solution through a resumption of negotiations that would require an immediate and total halt of settlements as a prerequisite and should lead to the creation of the independent state of Palestine, or to plunge the whole region into chaos.

* Digest compiled by Mohamed Naji mnaji@thenational.ae