U.S. lawmakers urge Biden to support 'economically strangled' Kurdistan

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani reacts during his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (unseen) inside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain April 19, 2022. Daniel Leal/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - A new U.S. approach is needed to facilitate the re-opening of a pipeline between Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and Turkey, a trio of U.S. congressmen urged President Biden in a letter seen by Reuters.

The pipeline contributes about 0.5% of global oil supply, and has been shut since March, costing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) roughly $4 billion in lost exports, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Turkey halted flows on Iraq's northern oil export route this year after an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ordered Ankara to pay Baghdad damages for unauthorised exports by the KRG between 2014 and 2018.

With global oil supplies being restricted by OPEC+ and prices rising, the United States would also benefit from the resumption of flows from northern Iraq's oil sector.

The KRG has served as one of the United States' most reliable partners in the Middle East, said the letter signed by three members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday.

However, the closure of the pipeline has cut the region off from the majority of its revenue, the letter said, citing a communique to Biden this month in which KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani warned the economic drain on the region could trigger its collapse.

The KRG is being "economically strangled, politically and legally pressured ... and militarily threatened by Iran and Iran-backed elements in Baghdad," added the letter from congressmen Michael Waltz, Michael T. McCaul and Joe Wilson.

It called for a "new Iraq strategy" to help fix the crisis, but did not detail what that should be.

The letter came ahead of a meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York.

Blinken during the meeting "underscored U.S. support" for the re-opening of a pipeline.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Mark Potter)

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