Exxon Mobil has asked Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki whether the U.S. oil major can keep operating in the country's southern oilfields while also working in the autonomous Kurdistan region, the government said on Monday.
The talks between the Shiite premier and Exxon came as the U.S. company is in the process of selling its stake in the huge West Qurna-1 oilfield in the south after clashing with Baghdad over its Kurdistan deals in the north.
Exxon angered OPEC member’s central government by signing deals with the northern Kurdish enclave, agreements Baghdad rejected as illegal contracts putting at risk the U.S. company’s other operations in Iraq's southern oil fields.
“Exxon Mobil asked to meet with prime minister to know his opinion on the company's contracts in the south and in the northern region and if there was a possibility to keep working on both contracts,” Maliki’s media advisor Ali al-Moussawi said after the meeting.
“The prime minister's answer was clear to the head of Exxon that they can't keep operating on both deals at the same time and they should observe Iraq's laws."
A statement from the government said only that Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson had "expressed his company's keenness to continue and expand its work in Iraq and that it will take important decisions in this regard."
Iraqi officials said late last year that China National Petroleum Corp or CNPC had emerged as the favorite in negotiations to take over Exxon's 60 percent stake in the $50 billion the West Qurna-1 project.