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Baghdad and Kurds reach ‘win-win’ accord over oil revenue

In a pact that seeks to close one of Iraq’s most difficult political rifts, envoys from Baghdad and the semiautonomous Kurdish region agreed Tuesday on a plan to divide the nation’s oil wealth and possibly bolster the fight against the Islamic State.

The multi-faceted deal could help boost unity and military coordination between Iraqi troops and the Kurdish militiamen, known as peshmerga. It also may quiet — at least for the moment — Kurdish factions calling for independence from Baghdad. Such breakaway ambitions — fueled by growing oil wealth in the northern Kurdish region — raise alarms across the region and among the Kurds’ Western allies. Any move toward splintering Iraq could become a serious distraction from the fight against the Islamic State and stir strong backlash in countries with their own large Kurdish minorities such as Syria and Turkey.

Under the accord, Kurds will release up to 500,000 barrels of oil a day to Iraq’s central authorities — representing about a fifth of the country’s current export levels. In exchange, the Kurds will receive a 17 percent cut from the national budget, which has been strained by falling oil prices.

It also opens the way for Kurds to export oil along a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. The exports represent another step in the Kurds expanding independence in making oil and gas deals.

On Monday, French oil giant Total and Houston-based Marathon Oil said they struck oil and gas near the Kurds main city of Irbil in the second such discovery in two years in the area. Last month, London-based Genel Energy, which already operates in the Kurdish region, said it reached an agreement with the Kurdish government to develop two natural gas fields.

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