Iraq's government would consider selling crude through Iran should talks with the autonomous Kurdish region on an oil revenue-sharing agreement fail, a senior oil ministry official in Baghdad told Reuters.
Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) plans to hold talks with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), possibly next week, about Iraqi oil exported through Turkey, Deputy Oil Minister Fayadh al-Nema said in an interview on Friday evening.
"If the negotiations come to a close" without an agreement "we will start to find a way in order to sell our oil because we need money, either to Iran or other countries", he said by telephone.
Iraq, OPEC's second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, depends on oil sales for 95 percent of its public income. Its economy is reeling under the double impact of low oil prices and the war against Islamic State militants.
The Kurdistan region produces around 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) on its territory and exports those volumes via Turkey. Baghdad would not be able to reroute those volumes to Iran but could order shipments of some 150,000 bpd via Iran that are being produced in the nearby province of Kirkuk.
Iraq's state-run North Oil Company resumed pumping crude through the Kurdish-controlled pipeline to Turkey last week as "a sign of goodwill to invite them (the Kurds) to start negotiations," Nema said.
He said pumping had resumed on the instruction of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi following "some understanding" between Baghdad and Erbil. Abadi said on Tuesday the decision had been made to avoid damage to reservoirs.
The flow of crude extracted from Kirkuk by North Oil and pumped in the pipeline has been running at about 75,000 bpd since last week, or half the rate before it was halted in March, Nema said.
Should there be an agreement with the Kurds, flow through the pipeline would be increased to more than 100,000 bpd, not to the previous level of 150,000 bpd, he added.
The pipeline carries crude to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, where the Kurds have been selling it independently on the international market, along with oil produced in their northern region.
The Kurdish government has been calling on Baghdad since March to resume the pumping of Kirkuk crude in full to help Erbil fund its war against Islamic State. Sources in Erbil have said splitting the Kirkuk flows would divide the Kurds and complicate the task of fighting the ultra-hardline militants.