ARBIL: Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region began exporting oil for the first time on Monday, shipping crude through a pipeline to neighbouring Turkey, an AFP correspondent at the opening ceremony said.
Kurdish president Massud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani opened a ceremonial valve at the event while a live broadcast showed workers at the Taq Taq oil field in Arbil province turning on the pumps.
"It is a historic date, a giant step," said Barzani at a lavish ceremony in Arbil. "We are proud of this success, and this achievement will serve the interests of all Iraqis, especially the Kurds."
It is hoped that the joint project between the autonomous Kurdish region and Baghdad will pave the way to ending bitter domestic feuds over Iraq's oil wealth.
Initial exports will be around 40,000 barrels per day from Taq Taq and another 50,000 bpd from the Tawke field in Dohuk.
The Taq Taq project is being run by Turkey's Genel Enerji in partnership with Calgary-based Addax Petroleum. The Tawke project to the northwest will be operated by Norwegian oil firm DNO.
Exports from Tawke will link with the Iraq-Turkey main export pipeline at the border town of Fishkhabur, while crude from Taq Taq will be trucked from Arbil before connecting with the Iraq-Turkey pipeline.