BAGHDAD — Iraq’s government is reportedly considering importing cooking oil from Armenia instead of Turkey because of its mounting political tensions with Ankara, Reuters reports.

A trade ministry spokesman said the administration will gradually cut imports of Turkish cooking oil that it supplies for free to the population under a food rationing programme. “The plan is to replace Turkish oil with locally produced oil and oil from other countries,” he said, without indicating the reason for replacing Turkey with other suppliers.

According to the Baghdad-based newspaper “Al-Bayina al-Jadida,” the measure is meant as a protest against the deployment of Turkish troops in northern Iraq.

Turkey says the forces are protecting its military personnel training Iraqi militia to fight against Islamic State militants. Turkey last week said it withdrew some forces, following Iraq’s complaints, without committing to a complete pull-out.

Iraq’s acting Trade Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani discussed the possibility of buying cooking oil from Armenia instead of Turkey at a meeting with the Armenian ambassador in Baghdad, Karen Grigorian, last week, a spokesman for al-Sudani told Reuters. An official at the Armenian Embassy in Baghdad confirmed the meeting took place without giving further details.

Turkey has been supplying all the cooking oil for the Iraqi trade ministry’s food rationing programme for several years, the ministry spokesman said.

The Iraqi-Armenian discussion on the possible Turkish import substitution is in tune with rapid growth in bilateral trade mainly carried out through Iran. According to the NSS, Armenia’s trade with Iraq soared by 39 percent in 2014 and by 22 percent, to $104 million, in January-October 2015.

Armenian exports to Iraq accounted for over 98 percent of the overall commercial exchange, rising by as much as 65 percent to $102 million in the ten-month period, NSS data show. Armenian cigarettes are by far the most important item in those exports. The Iraqi market generated over two-thirds of the Armenian tobacco industry’s total export revenue which stood at about $117 million in 2014.

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