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Iraq signs 'preliminary' gas deal with Turkmenistan

By AFP - Oct 07,2023 - Last updated at Oct 07,2023

A photo taken on May 3, 2014, shows 'The Gateway to Hell', a huge burning gas crater in Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert (AFP file photo)

BAGHDAD — Iraq on Friday signed an initial agreement with Turkmenistan to import much-needed gas for the country's insufficient and dilapidated electricity grid, officials said.

 They added that talks are still needed to arrange transport through Iran. 

 Iraq, ravaged by decades of conflict and international sanctions, relies on gas imported from its eastern neighbour for almost one-third of its energy needs. 

 But Tehran regularly cuts supply over payment issues, further worsening the electricity outages that severely impact the daily lives of 43 million Iraqis. 

 "Iraq and Turkmenistan signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday to provide Turkmen gas to the country, as part of the government's programme to diversify its energy sources to ensure a stable and sustainable power supply," a statement from Baghdad's electricity ministry said. 

 Iraq's Minister of Electricity Ziad Fadel clarified that "the pipelines of the Islamic Republic of Iran, connected to Iraqi transport pipelines, will be used to reach the power plants" in Iraq. 

 The "preliminary agreement" is to import approximately 25 million cubic metres of gas per day, a ministry official told AFP, without specifying the degree to which that will address Iraq's needs.

 According to the bp Statistical Review of World Energy, Iraq consumed 17.1 billion cubic metres of gas in 2021.

 "It is a memorandum of understanding to expand the horizons of cooperation," the official said, declining to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. 

 "The gas will be transported via Iranian pipelines, which will also require negotiations with the Iranian and Turkmen parties." 

 Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al Sudani, who was appointed by a coalition of pro-Iran Shiite parties, regularly calls for the diversification of Iraq's energy sources. 

 To reduce their dependence on Iranian gas, Iraq has been exploring several possibilities including imports from Gulf countries like Qatar, as well as recovering flared gas from oil fields. 

 Iraq is one of the world's major crude producers.

 Electricity shortages are extremely common in the country, where summer heat exacerbates daily power outages, sometimes leading to protests in a country with deteriorating infrastructure and plagued by corruption.

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