(Adds aim to increase export capacity, context)
BAGHDAD, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Iraq plans to reopen a crude oil pipeline from the Kirkuk oilfields to Ceyhan in Turkey, the oil ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, a route partly still in use by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Iraq largely stopped sending oil through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline in 2014 after the region was overrun by Islamic State militants. Recaptured by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces over the past two years, there have been some intermittent flows.
Oil minister Jabar al-Luaibi has asked state-owned North Oil Co., the State Company for Oil Projects and the state pipeline company to quickly begin work to restore full operation of the pipeline, the ministry said.
North Oil Co.’s production has been completely allocated to supplying Mosul and other areas recaptured from Islamic State, and none has been exported for several months.
Iraq hopes to raise its exports through the pipeline to their previous level of between 250,000 and 400,000 barrels per day, the statement said.
The move comes as the Iraqi government and the KRG remain at loggerheads over a Kurdish independence referendum held last month, which delivered an overwhelming “yes” vote to break away from Iraq.
The KRG operates a pipeline that connects to the twin Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline at Khabur on the border with Turkey.
Luaibi met the Turkish ambassador on Monday in Baghdad to press for increased cooperation between the countries, the oil ministry statement said.
Turkey has threatened to shut the KRG-operated pipeline at Baghdad’s request. Russia, whose companies are heavily involved in the KRG oil industry, said on Oct. 4 that shutting the pipeline would be in nobody’s interest.
Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Ahmed Rasheed; editing by Louise Heavens and Jason Neely