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Turkey condemns US oil deal with Syrian Kurds

Ankara says Washington's backing of deal with SDF militia should be subject to terrorism financing laws
A US military vehicle patrols oil fields near the town of Qahtaniyah in Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Istanbul

Turkey has condemned a US company’s oil deal with Syrian Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, criticising the Trump administration for approving it.

“We regret that the US lends its support to this move which completely ignores international law, and the territorial unity and sovereignty of Syria, and is covered by the scope of financing terrorism,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

“This position, which cannot be legitimised under any circumstances, can never be accepted.”

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Over the weekend, the US-based Al Monitor website reported that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led militia, had recently signed a deal with the Delaware-based Delta Crescent Energy.

The SDF backs a semi-autonomous administration in northeastern Syria and controls the country's biggest oilfields, which are still claimed by Damascus.

Turkey considers the SDF a terrorist group with links to the PKK, a Kurdish militant organisation.

“With this step, the PKK/YPG terror group has revealed its intention to advance its separatist agenda by seizing the Syrian people’s natural resources. The natural resources of Syria belong to its people,” the Turkish statement added.

Al-Monitor said that the US government had also agreed to provide two modular refineries to the semi-autonomous administration that would meet 20 percent of its refining needs.

Delivery of the refineries had not yet taken place due to logistical problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it added.

Pompeo backing

The deal was first revealed by US Senator Lindsey Graham during a hearing with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the US Congress last week.

“I talked to [SDF commander] General Mazloum [Abdi] yesterday, with the SDF,” Graham told Pompeo.

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“Apparently, they’ve signed a deal with an American oil company to modernise the oil fields in northeastern Syria. Are you supportive of that?”

Pompeo, in response, said that the US government was supportive of the deal, which he hoped would “help” everybody in northeastern Syria.

"The deal took a little longer, senator, than we had hoped and we're now in implementation. It can be very powerful," Pompeo said.

The Syrian government also chastised the deal over the weekend.

A Syrian foreign ministry statement, published on state media, said the agreement was set “to steal Syrian oil... supported by the US administration". 

The statement decried "an agreement between... thieves who steal and thieves who buy".

The Baghdad-based Iraq Oil Report, citing unnamed sources, said that Delta Crescent Energy was led by three men, including a former US ambassador, a person with interests in a security firm, and an entrepreneur who had failed to obtain licences in Iraq, but had had a contract in Syria until EU sanctions forced him to halt operations.

The likely buyer of the Syrian oil is seen as Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

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