MOSCOW, July 30 (RIA Novosti) – A US court said it lacked jurisdiction to seize a batch of Kurdish crude worth $100 million aboard a tanker off Texas, Reuters reported Wednesday, referring to court filings.
It cited federal magistrate Nancy K. Johnson as saying late Tuesday the tanker was anchored 60 miles offshore and outside US territorial waters. She added the case should be referred to Iraq as the shipment had not been agreed with the Iraqi government.
The United Kalavrvta tanker carrying about 1 million barrels of crude arrived in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday. As it was too large to enter the port, the vessel had to wait till Sunday for the US Coast Guard to give it clearance to transfer the cargo offshore to smaller boats for delivery to the mainland.
On Monday, Iraqi authorities laid claims to the crude and won an order for its seizure.
Later that day, the court ordered US Marshals to detain the tanker's cargo but said later the ruling could not be enforced due to the ship’s distance from the US shore.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday that “the cargo remains on board the ship at this time.”
“We believe that Iraq’s energy resources belong to the Iraqi people and certainly have long stated that it needs to go through the central government. And as you know, there’s an ongoing legal dispute in this case, which is — which obviously is something that we’re aware of and we’re closely following,” Psaki said, adding that US policy has not changed.
Authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan are in conflict with Baghdad over its oil exports. In May, a cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered in Houston to an unidentified buyer, and four other cargoes have been delivered so far this year to Israel.
The Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq has strengthened its independence bid in the past few months amid the rise of a Sunni insurgency across the country. Kurds have been especially successful in quenching the uprising and cementing control over their land and oilfields, in particular around the resource-rich city of Kirkuk, while relations between Washington and Iraq’s leader in Baghdad, Nouri Maliki, have soured.