Iraq has been shipping oil to the Syrian government to provide it with vital fuel at a time when Syria is under international sanctions, it was claimed last night.
Documents unearthed by the Financial Times show that the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is providing Syria with 720,000 tons of fuel oil in a one-year contract.
Baghdad’s Goverment is supported by the U.S. Government, and there are concerns in Washington about the contract with Syria, which is currently under trading sanctions.
The Iraqi Oil Ministry delivered oil worth $14 million over June and July – with the payments made in cash.
A U.S. State Department official, speaking anonymously, said the shipments did not violate U.S. or EU sanctions.
But he added: ‘Perceptions matter, so we encourage countries trading with Syria to be open about their legal and non-sanctionable exchanges.
‘If this is going to continue, we think the Iraqis should be up front about it.’
The news comes after U.S. officials complained that Iraq was allowing Iranian planes – carrying weapons – to fly across its airspace on their way to Syria.
Syria or Iraq did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile Turkey has authorised troops to launch cross-border attacks against Syria yesterday as its military fired on targets in the country for a second day.
The attacks yesterday was in retaliation for shelling by Syrian forces that killed two women and three of their daughters in the Turkish border town of Akcakale last Wednesday.
‘WORST CASE SCENARIO’
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Monday the ‘worst-case scenarios’ were now playing out in Syria and Turkey would do everything necessary to protect itself, as its army fired back for a sixth day after a shell from Syria flew over the border.
Gul said the violence in Turkey’s southern neighbor, where a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad has evolved into a civil war that threatens to draw in regional powers, could not go on indefinitely and Assad’s fall was inevitable.
‘The worst-case scenarios are taking place right now in Syria.
Our government is in constant consultation with the Turkish military. Whatever is needed is being done immediately as you see, and it will continue to be done,’ Gul said.
‘There will be a change, a transition sooner or later.
It is a must for the international community to take effective action before Syria turns into a bigger wreck and further blood is shed, that is our main wish,’ he told reporters in Ankara.
An unknown number of Syrian troops based near a checkpoint were said to have died in the reprisals.
The bill paves the way for unilateral action by Turkey’s armed forces inside Syria without the involvement of Turkey’s Western or Arab allies.
Turkey has used a similar provision to repeatedly attack suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq.
Syria has admitted it was responsible for this week’s shelling and formally apologised for the deaths, a top Turkish official said.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay has reassured the U.N. that ‘such an incident will not occur again.’
The violence, which prompted Nato to convene an emergency meeting, marks a dangerous escalation of the war which has engulfed Syria for 18 months.
Ibrahim Kalin, a senior adviser to prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, said: ‘Turkey has no interest in a war with Syria but Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary.
The border violence has added a dangerous new dimension to Syria’s civil war, dragging its neighbour – a sanctuary for 90,000 refugees – deeper into a conflict activists say has killed 30,000.