Skip to main content

Turkey seeks $950m damages against Iraq over KRG oil dispute

Turkish interest calculations suggest Baghdad has to pay $950m to Ankara in ICC award that initially ruled $1.4bn in favour of Iraq
A worker checks the valve gears of pipes linked to oil tanks at Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, which is run by state-owned Petroleum Pipeline Corporation
A worker checks the valve gears of pipes linked to oil tanks at Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, which is run by state-owned Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (Reuters/File photo)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

When Iraq in April asked a US federal court to enforce an arbitration ruling against Turkey, seeking $1.4bn damages in relation to crude oil exports from its autonomous Kurdistan region, everyone was caught off guard in Ankara.

Iraq had not notified Turkish officials, let alone tried to have a conversation on how to proceed after the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ruled that Turkey had breached its contract by directly trading oil with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) between 2014 and 2018.

Furious Turkish officials promised, in private conversations, that they would make Iraq pay.

And on Thursday, they took a step in that direction and asked the court to make Baghdad pay Ankara.

Turkey argued at the US District Court for the District of Columbia that Iraq should pay Ankara a net sum of $956m in damages after interest rate calculations on an arbitration ruling that initially granted a net sum of $1.4bn to Baghdad.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The ICC awarded $1.9bn to Iraq but also awarded more than $500m to Turkey for its counterclaims of low capacity at the pipeline and unpaid transportation fees going back to the 1990s. All awards have pending interest rates.

“When prejudgment interest is properly calculated in accordance with the tribunal’s directions in the award, it is clear that the Court must enter judgment in favour of Türkiye, not Iraq, in the amount of USD 956,946,766 plus the additional post-award, prejudgment interest owed by Iraq from August 31, 2023 to the date of the Court’s judgment,” the lawyers for Turkey argued in a motion on Thursday.

“The pre-award interest due on the amounts that the tribunal awarded to Türkiye greatly exceeds the pre-award interest due on the amounts that it awarded to Iraq.

“That is because some of Iraq’s breaches of the treaties occurred more than three decades ago, while all of Türkiye’s breaches occurred between 2014 and 2018, and the tribunal ordered each side to pay pre-award interest on each amount owed from 1 January of the year following which the amount was incurred, compounded annually to the date of this Award.”

In favour of Turkey

The Turkish calculations attached to the motion indicate that Iraq gets $2.6bn in damages and interests from the award, while Turkey gets $3.5bn in damages and interests, making Ankara the beneficiary of a net $919m award as of the date of the ICC ruling in March 2023.

'Hollow victory': Iraq is not really a winner in the Turkey oil arbitration case
Read More »

An additional $37.7m interest rate was added between March and August to the amount because of post-award interest.

The motion said Turkey already sent a letter to Iraq on 28 August, recalling the ICC decisions on interest, providing the calculations and demanding the prompt payment of $956m. Iraq had not responded to the letter, according to the motion.

The lawyers for Turkey also accused Iraq of using the US court as a forum for a public relations campaign against Ankara, including by publicising the ICC award.

“While this objective is improper, Türkiye does not oppose Iraq’s request for entry of an order confirming, recognizing, and enforcing the arbitral award,” the motion said. “The Court must enter judgment in favor of Türkiye, not Iraq.”

Devastating earthquakes

After the ICC ruling, Turkey stopped the oil flow at the pipeline, corresponding to about 0.5 percent of global supply, citing the need for repairs because of corrosion and damage following the devastating 6 February earthquakes that hit southern Turkey.

Turkish and Western sources have described the initial ICC ruling in favour of Iraq as a hollow victory because the arbitration had rejected most of Baghdad’s claims and awarded it less than 7 percent of the damages it sought, and granted most of Turkey’s counterclaims, awarding it 40 percent of what it was seeking.

Turkish and Iraqi officials had been negotiating a deal to end the stalemate.

Turkey wants Baghdad to withdraw a second ICC court case regarding the period after 2018, and find a mutual ground to work out the award. Ankara also asked Iraq to find out a payment system that could satisfy both the KRG and Baghdad.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.