Oil flows from Iraq to Turkey were halted on January 19 following an explosion on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline. The news is a sign that Turkey is likely to be in for another tough year in terms of interruptions to its energy imports.
Running from Iraq to the port of Ceyhan on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, crude supplies were temporarily disrupted due to an explosion in the Turkish province of Mardin on the night of January 18, sparking a fire, reported Iran's Fars news agency. Firefighters have now put out the blaze, but it is unclear when the pipeline, which carries a quarter of Iraq's oil exports, will be back online, the BBC said.
Iraqi officials blamed Kurdish separatists for the explosion. Separatist group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has claimed responsibility for attacks on oil and gas pipelines in the past, sometimes cutting oil flows from Iraq for days. Kirkuk-Ceyhan is a regular target. However, it has not yet been confirmed that the latest incident was the result of sabotage.
The increasingly common attacks on the pipeline are testament to the troublesome neighbourhood in which it runs. On both the northern and southern side of the border between northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey it is vulnerable to separatist Kurdish forces, whilst it is also exposed to attack by insurgents fighting the Iraqi state.
A likely strike within the first three weeks of 2013 suggests this is likely to be just as tough a year for Iraq's main export pipeline as 2012 proved. Last year, the route was shut down at least three times by attacks.
The pipeline is also at the centre of the growing tension between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq, which is pushing to establish its own energy trade, independent of the central government. Turkish corporate Genel is playing a major role in that push, and Iraq has warned it of consequences. Meanwhile, Baghdad is holding back payments for oil exported through its official channels from Iraqi Kurdistan - which flow through