|DNO was the first company to enter Iraq after the 2003 war and the first to export oil|
Peter Galbraith, the former US diplomat and leading advocate of Kurdish autonomy, on Thursday acknowledged that he had business “activities” in the oil sector in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq.
Mr Galbraith’s involvement in Iraqi oil came under criticism this week after it was revealed that his company was in dispute with Norway’s DNO, the operator that was the first to enter northern Iraq and to strike oil, over “certain third-party interests” that are seeking damages from the company.
Critics said he stood to gain financially from the political positions he was advocating, and that should have prompted Mr Galbraith to make his business dealings public at the time.
Reidar Visser, editor of www.historiae.org, a website about Iraq, has accused Mr Galbraith of wearing “several hats at the same time”, and mixing “his roles in ways that seem entirely incompatible with the capacity of an independent adviser on constitutional affairs”.
But Mr Galbraith insisted in a telephone interview with the Financial Times that he saw no conflict of interest between his business dealings and role as an adviser to Kurdish leaders, arguing that he has always sought to support the interests of Kurds.
Mr Galbraith, a respected former US ambassador to Croatia and proponent of Kurdish rights long before the 2003 Iraq war, resigned from a senior UN job in Afghanistan after saying his boss had covered up election fraud. He is known in international circles for his advocacy on behalf of ethnic minorities.
In his book, The End of Iraq, Mr Galbraith wrote how he advised Kurdish leaders in discussions over the Iraqi constitution in 2005 as they sought to secure ownership and control of the autonomous region’s oil resources.
A person familiar with the situation said DNO’s relationship with Mr Galbraith dated back to when he had helped the company during its negotiations on entering Kurdistan in 2003.
The arbitration proceedings are confidential. But people familiar with the dispute between Mr Galbraith and DNO said his company was among those claiming to have been squeezed out of a small stake in the Tawke oil field in Kurdistan when DNO, which owns a 55 per cent stake, renegotiated agreements with Kurdish authorities last year.
Mr Galbraith said his company, Porcupine LP, had a “contractual relationship” with DNO, and no “third-party interest in DNO’s production-sharing contracts in Iraqi Kurdistan”.
Mr Galbraith’s involvement with DNO was first revealed this week by a Norwegian newspaper.
The former diplomat said he could not discuss the nature of his business activities. However, he told the FT he was a private citizen at the time of his work in Kurdistan and had not been remunerated for advice on the constitution.
“Some of the critics suggest that I’m responsible for the Kurds having self-government. That’s absurd,” he said. “They didn’t need me to tell them what they wanted. I just helped them formulate it.”
DNO started exporting from Tawke in June but shipments halted last month. DNO resumed operations this month.