By August 30, 2016 Read More →

Iraq’s Qayyara oilfields won’t return to production before Mosul retaken


Military vehicles of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces are seen on the southeast of Mosul, Iraq. The US is confident the Iraqi military can retake Mosul by the end of 2016 . Reuters photo by Azad Lashkari.

Qayyara oilfields recaptured from ISIS militants by Iraqi military

BAGHDAD, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Iraq doesn’t expect to resume production from the northern Qayyara oilfields before the capture of nearby Mosul from Islamic State, an oil ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

The region’s two main fields, Qayyara and Najma, used to produce up to 30,000 barrels per day of heavy crude before it fell under control of the ultra-hardline militants two years ago. It has also a small refinery to process some local oil.

“The rehabilitation process cannot resume unless the security situation improves with the conclusion of the battle for Mosul” some 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Qayyara, oil ministry spokesman Asim Jihad told Reuters.

Iraq is on track to meet its objective of retaking the city of Mosul from Islamic State later this year, should Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi choose to go forward as planned, the head of the U.S. military’s Central Command said on Tuesday.

“It’s the prime minister’s objective to have that done by the end of the year,” General Joseph Votel, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, told a news conference. “My assessment is that we can meet the … prime minister’s objectives, if that’s what he chooses to do.”

Two years since Islamic State seized wide swathes of northern and western Iraq, Votel said momentum had firmly shifted against the militant group as it loses territory in its self-proclaimed “caliphate”.

Mosul has been the largest urban center under the militants’ control, with a pre-war population of nearly 2 million. It was from Mosul’s Grand Mosque in 2014 that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” spanning regions of Iraq and Syria.

Votel said the battle for Mosul could present a mixed picture for war planners, with Islamic State retreating in some areas only to reinforce in others.

“ISIL is having to make hard decisions, because they’re being pressured in a variety of ways,” Votel said.

The Iraqi army took Qayyara back last week and oil ministry services started putting out fires at wells caused by insurgents as a tactic to escape air surveillance and hamper the progression of Iraqi forces.

The oil ministry also dug trenches to prevent oil spills from reaching the Tigris river, Jihad said. “They were contained,” he added.

Angolan oil company Sonangol pulled out from an agreement to increase output at the Qayyara fields in 2014, citing the mounting security risk.

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, pumps most of its crude from the southern region. The nation has an average daily output of 4.6 million barrels per day.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expects Mosul to be retaken this year, effectively defeating Islamic State in Iraq. The group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” extends over the border to include parts of eastern Syria.

(Reporting by Saif Hameed, Phill Stewart and Idrees Ali; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens)

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