Najmaldin Karim, the governor of the Kirkuk region in northern Iraq, has voiced concerns that Turkey have deliberately disrupted oil exports as way of putting pressure on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Speaking to MEED in an interview on 9 March he said that he believed that Turkey was using a pipeline shutdown to try and force the KRG into reigning-in affiliated militant groups that are actively fighting Turkey and its allies.

The Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, Iraq’s largest crude oil export pipeline, stopped exports on 17 February and did not resume exports for 23 days.

Turkey blamed the stoppage on an attack near the Turkish city of Urfa.

“There’s nothing wrong with the pipeline. That’s my opinion,” said Karim. “I think there are military operations in the area. It is also a pressure, probably, on the KRG with regard to Syria, YPG, [and] with regard to Sinjar.”

Karim said he also believed that Turkey was using the stoppage to put pressure on the KRG to try and pacify the PKK, a Kurdish military group that is battling the Turkish military in the north of the country.

In January, the pipeline transported an average of 601,811 barrels a day.

Around half those exports were produced in the Kirkuk region.

The disruption to exports dealt a severe financial blow to Iraqi Kurdistan at a time when it is already struggling with an acute economic crisis.