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Iraq awaits final answer from Turkey to resume exports

(Reuters) - Iraq is still waiting for a final answer from Turkey to resume its northern oil exports, which run from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, Iraq's oil minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani said on Tuesday.

Turkey told Baghdad a technical team was evaluating whether the pipeline was damaged as a result of the devastating February earthquake, Abdel-Ghani said.

"We are about to send a technical team to evaluate this pipeline so that we are sure that it is ready or if it needs extra checks," Abdel-Ghani added.

Turkey halted Iraq's 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) of northern exports through the Iraq-Turkey pipeline on March 25 after an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

The ICC ordered Turkey to pay Baghdad damages of $1.5 B for unauthorized exports by the Kurdistan Regional Government between 2014 and 2018.

Iraq asked Turkey this month to resume pipeline flows and loading operations at Ceyhan on May 13.

Turkish pipeline operator BOTAS has yet to receive instruction from Turkish authorities to resume flows, an Iraqi oil official told Reuters on Monday.

"We're talking about weeks, not days, as an expected time frame to resume exports. This issue is more political now than technical," the source said.

Iraqi government officials previously told Reuters they blamed elections for the delay.

Turkey held presidential elections on May 14 but neither of the two main candidates exceeded the required 50% of the votes and a run-off is scheduled for May 28.

The 60-day pipeline stoppage, which Reuters estimates to have cost the KRG more than $1.5 B, has caused oil production in Iraq's Kurdistan region to drop

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