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KRG Spain office attends seminar on Iraq’s current situation in think tank “Real Insituto Elcano”.

The KRG Spain office attended a seminar held by the Real Institute Elcano last week at the Fine Arts Centre. The seminar was centered on current developments in Iraq with particular attention given to the ISIS spearheaded Sunni insurgency that has swept the country and seen a number of major cities fall into the hands of the insurgents.

The seminar was moderated by Charles Powell, Elcano’s director, and involved three key researchers of the think tank, Haziam Amirah Fernandez, Felix Arteaga and Gonzalo Escribano.

The levels of analysis provided were from three angles, national, regional and global. According to Haziam Amirah Fernandez’s analysis, the blame lay on US policy towards Iraq & the sectarian policies of Nouri Al Maliki’s government which Fernandez argued created the fertile grounds for an insurgency. Fernandez criticised the lack of political consensus in Iraq and the exclusion of ethnic and religious groups from the political process, which is key to governing such a diverse country successfully. Fernandez also complained at the lack of response from the international community to the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

Felix Arteaga spoke of the potential consequences of the conflict on the Europena Union and Spain and predicted three outcomes for Iraq. First, Prime Minister Al Maliki leaves office at the request of many in Iraq’s political arena. Second, Iraq divided into three separate independent entities and lastly international intervention to help the Iraqi’s regain control of lost territory.

Energy director of Elcano Gozalo Escribano provided an insight into the affect the conflict would have on the energy sector. He stated that Spain’s oil imports from Iraq have reduced to 3% from 7% some years ago. He put confirmed that oil prices have stabilised after an initial rise in prices just have the news of the conflict hit the markets, but had not had a serious effect on production.

The seminar provided a comprehensive insight into the current situation and an interesting analysis of how the conflict developed over a period of time. The seminar was attended by the KRG Spain office and the Embassy of Iraq in Spain among other guests.

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Daban Shadala provides updates on the current situation in Iraq and Kurdistan to the Spanish Media

The current situation in Iraq has been spiraling out of control of the past few weeks. The ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has progressively made ground in Iraq after seizing the city of Mosul back in June. The Iraqi army fled in the face of a few thousand fighters, composed of ISIS and other Sunni Arab insurgents. As a result, the Kurdish Peshmerga stepped into areas that are historically Kurdish and where the presence of the Iraqi was nowhere to be seen. They have managed to keep ISIS at bay in the towns and cities that form the new front with the terrorist group. Moreover, the policy of the KRG and our Peshmerga forces has been to protect people, regardless of ethnicity of religious sect, who live in those areas. As a result of ISIS, Iraq has witnessed the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of people who have been directly affected by, and have been fleeing, the conflict. The KRG has done its utmost to provide security, food, water and shelter to those fleeing the affected areas. As a result, the Kurdistan Region is now home to some one million internally displaced people as well as refugees that have fled the conflict in Syria, and help from the international community in dealing with these large numbers would be greatly welcome

Politically speaking, things in Iraq don’t seem to be moving forward. The first session of parliament in Baghdad was adjourned as Sunni and Kurdish MP’s left in protest at the insults hurled at them from MP’s belonging to Prime Minister Nouri Al Malik’s list, the state of law.. A second session was supposed to be held on Tuesday but was postponed as a result of a lack of agreement between the various political groups within in Iraq. The new plan is for parliament to meet within the coming weeks. The Prime Minister also accused the KRG of “harbouring terrorists” yesterday, an accusation we strongly oppose and that is simply untrue, in an effort to stir up tensions in the country. As a result the Kurdish Ministers posted in Baghdad have now boycotted any future cabinet meetings. We have had many disagreements with the federal government, but we remain committed to a democratic and federal Iraq with a number of conditions attached to that commitment. The most important of these is that Baghdad stops its economic blockade of the Kurdistan Region. Due to a dispute over oil and gas, the federal government suspended the KRG’s constitutional right to receive a 17% share of the Iraqi budget back in February. If things are to move forward politically between the KRG and the Federal Government, Baghdad must make steps to ease the budget freeze. Even the Iraqi Supreme Court ruled against a request by the Iraqi government to prevent the KRG exporting its oil on the pretexts that his requests were “contrary to the applicable legal contexts in Iraq.” The federal government also imposed a cargo ban on Kurdistan’s two main international airports of Slemani and Erbil in a move that is seen as trying to further suffocate the Kurdistan Region’s booming economy

We, as the KRG will continue to support the political process and will remain committed to Iraq as long as it remains democratic and is able to provide security to the country. We will also continue to provide relief to those who have been affected by the turmoil and who seek refuge in the Kurdistan Region. There is currently an on-going debate regarding a referendum for Kurdish independence, the outcome of which will be left to the people to decide under a democratic mechanism that we support whatever their choice should be, it is their democratic right to determine their future.

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KRG Notice To All Crude Oil Buyers From SOMO

Under Article 112 of the Iraqi Constitution, the Iraqi federal government is legally required to distribute oil and gas revenues from present fields “in a fair manner in proportion to the population distribution in all parts of the country.”

Under Article 112, the KRG is entitled to 17% of all proceeds from oil sales by the Federal Oil Ministry and the State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) (or any other division of the Iraqi federal government).

The KRG has the right, in circumstances where the Iraqi federal government is not sharing revenues in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution, to take such action as the KRG considers appropriate to obtain all entitlements the Iraqi federal government is required to pay to the KRG under the Iraqi Constitution. This right is reflected in Kurdistan law.

Since at least 2005, the Federal Oil Ministry has failed to comply with its constitutional and legal duties to the KRG, including under Article 112.  The Federal Oil Ministry and SOMO continue to sell and to seek to sell oil, gas and other petroleum products to third parties, and to retain the full proceeds of such sales, all in violation of the KRG’s express constitutional and legal rights, and without the participation or approval of the KRG.

In these circumstances, and until further notice, Article 112 legally precludes the Federal Oil Ministry and SOMO (or any other division of the Iraqi federal government) from selling oil from Iraq without the approval of the Kurdistan Region, as a producing Region.  Oil sales by the Federal Oil Ministry, SOMO, or any other division of the Iraqi federal government are therefore in violation of the Iraqi Constitution and international law, and may be outside the scope of their authority.

The KRG notifies all persons that have purchased or may purchase oil or gas from any division of the Iraqi federal government, including the Federal Oil Ministry or SOMO, that the KRG will consider such buyers and those who have facilitated shipments on their behalf or on behalf of SOMO as colluding in, supporting, or facilitating violations of the KRG’s rights (including under the Iraqi Constitution and/or international law), unless such buyers pay the KRG 17% of the purchase price, reflecting the share to which the KRG is legally entitled.

Buyers who fail to make such payments to the KRG will be facilitating the Iraqi federal government’s breach of the KRG’s rights and passing to the Iraqi federal government monies that rightfully belong to the KRG.  Such buyers will also run the risk of paying funds to the Iraqi federal government pursuant to arrangements that may be outside the authority of the Iraqi federal government under the Iraqi constitution.

The KRG will take such legal action against buyers of oil from the Federal Oil Ministry and SOMO (or any other division of the Iraqi federal government) as may be necessary to protect the KRG’s constitutional and legal rights.

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Four Universities from the Kurdistan Region allocated places on Erasmus Mundus initiative “Marhaba”

The University of Santiago de Compostela from Galicia, Spain, which proposed a new initiative called Marhaba under the Erasmus Mundus scheme, has had the budget approved for the project to go ahead. Marhaba will cover the Middle East and will therefore be accepting students from a variety of universities across the region.

Four universities from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have been allocated a number of places for students to study in Santiago de Compostela University and a number of other universities across Europe. These universities include: Slemani University, Koya University, Raparin University, and Halabja University. A total number of forty one places have been designated to universities from the Kurdistan Region which will offer the opportunity for Kurdish students to participate in mobility programs and study postgraduate courses in a network of European universities. The project also offers post-doctoral and especially tailored programs for university teachers. Marhaba, which will be officially inaugurated in October, will run for a total of four years.

This is very encouraging news for the Kurdistan Region and is a direct result of the visit of a delegation of University rectors from Kurdistan who visited Spain last year. The KRG Spain office facilitated this initiative and helped kick start the process when it was in its early phases.

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High-level delegation discusses with Washington crisis sweeping Iraq and future options for Kurdistan

A high level delegation this week met United States government officials, including the Vice President and Secretary of State, as well as foreign policy experts, think tanks, business leaders, non-governmental organisations, and the media to discuss the crisis sweeping Iraq.

Dr Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to President Masoud Barzani, and Minister Falah Mustafa, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, met Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry during their five-day visit to Washington which concluded on 4 July.

The focus of their discussions was the catastrophic progress of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorist organisation across swathes of central Iraq and the threat it poses to Kurdistan, Iraq, as well as to neighbouring countries.

Meeting with Vice President Biden and the National Security Council

On Thursday afternoon, the delegation met with the National Security Council (NSC) to discuss the future of Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq. Tony Blinken, deputy NSC advisor to President Barack Obama, Phil Gordon, special assistant to the President and White House coordinator for the Middle East, and other members of the NSC team participated in the meeting. Vice President Biden joined the meeting later to convey President Obama’s message on the security situation in Iraq and to pledge continued support for the people of Kurdistan.

During the meeting the delegation and Vice President Biden discussed the latest political and security developments in Iraq following the advances of ISIS in Mosul and other areas in Iraq. Dr Hussein reiterated the Kurdistan Regional Government’s gratitude to the government and people of the United States for their sacrifices and continued support for Iraq. He also outlined the various stages in the political process over the past decade in Iraq and noted that Kurdistan’s allies had failed to adhere to the Constitution and implement subsequent agreements.

The Chief of Staff to President Barzani added that the Kurdistan Region has demonstrated great flexibility and has always been ready to address issues under contention, but the situation has recently deteriorated and there has been a collective failure to resolve them.

Vice President Biden focused on the urgency for Iraqis to rid the country of ISIS and other terrorist organisations. The Vice President added that the US administration is closely following events in Iraq and is concerned at the spread and strengthening of terrorism in Iraq. He also expressed his country’s support for a new, inclusive government in Baghdad which would represent all components of Iraqi society.

Meeting with Secretary of State Kerry

A day earlier, the delegation met Secretary of State Kerry at the State Department where both sides exchanged ideas on combating the rise of extremism in the region, strengthening KRG-US government cooperation, and the KRG leadership’s plans to secure the future of the Kurdistan Region in the new era following the collapse of the Iraqi security forces in the face of ISIS’s take-over of Mosul.

The delegation said that the KRG is looking to the United States for assistance and support in dealing with the humanitarian crisis and the rising number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) who have fled to the region, as well as support in handling the security crisis following the expansion of ISIS.

In light of the continued instability in Iraq, the delegation discussed a range of possible options for Kurdistan’s future, including the possibility of a referendum on the exercise of the right to self-determination.  Dr Hussein reiterated President Barzani’s message during the meeting with Secretary Kerry a week earlier in Erbil. “Any solution to the current crisis in Iraq ought to be on the basis of the new realities,” Dr Hussein said. “If there is still an opportunity for Shia and Sunnis to work together based on the new realities, then it would be much easier to confront the terrorists.”

During both meetings, Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry said it was crucial that President Barzani continues his leadership role in the Iraqi political process and added that if there were progress politically, the United States would assist Iraq in its fight against terrorism. The Kurdistan delegation and senior US administration figures emphasised the need for a political solution prior to a military resolution of the crisis.

Meetings with other officials

Dr Hussein and Minister Bakir also met Assistant Secretary Anne C Richard, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, to discuss the humanitarian crisis and ways in which the United States can help to alleviate some of the pressure on the KRG’s already-stretched resources. The delegation said that internal sectarian tensions are dividing Iraq, while the crisis in Syria continues to feed instability in the region. As a result, the Kurdistan Region has received close to a million refugees and Iraqi IDPs fleeing violence. This has stretched the KRG’s resources, especially considering the federal government in Baghdad has not shared revenues with the Kurdistan Region for over six months.

Mrs Richard praised the Kurdish leadership for being receptive and generous to the needs of refugees and IDPs. “I have always appreciated the KRG’s openness to taking in such displaced people in the midst of chaos and people fleeing violence,” she said. The assistant secretary pledged support through US aid agencies and other international organisations operating in the Kurdistan Region.

During the visit, the delegation also met with members of congress, national security staff, as well as diplomats.  Dr Hussein and Minister Mustafa spent some time meeting with Senator Blunt of Missouri to discuss the latest developments and to urge the senator to help overcome the challenges facing Kurdistan. The senator said he “intends to be helpful to the Kurdistan Region” during these challenging times. The delegation also carried out several public and roundtable discussions with foreign policy experts as well as interviews with various US and international media outlets.

Dr Hussein and Minister Mustafa were received at Washington’s Dulles Airport by Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Warrick from the Department of Homeland Security and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Anthony Godfrey from the State Department upon their arrival.

Readout of Vice President Biden’s meeting with the delegation

State Department Spokesperson’s briefing, 2 July 2014

Delegation participates in a policy forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Delegation dinner at the Atlantic Council

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President Barzani asks Parliament to begin work on referendum

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani visited the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament yesterday, requesting the Parliament to immediately undertake the task of creating an independent electoral commission for the Region, and to begin preparations for holding a referendum for the people of Kurdistan to decide their future.

In his remarks to the Parliament, the President urged Members of Parliament to “promptly create an independent electoral commission and to begin preparations for holding a referendum to determine the future, as this would strengthen our hand. The time has come for us to determine our future; we should no longer wait for others to determine our future. In the meantime, we will do whatever we can to help Shia and Sunnis to save the country from this crisis.”

The President stated that the wrong policies of the Iraqi government and the collapse of the Iraqi Army have caused the current security crisis in the governorates of Anbar, Ninewa, Salahaddin, and Diyala. He said that four days prior to the events in Mosul the KRG offered to cooperate with Baghdad to confront the terrorist groups, but this was rejected by Baghdad.

Regarding the deployment of Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas, the President said that all of these areas are now under the control of Peshmerga forces. He added, “The Peshmerga forces are there to protect the people of those areas and they will not be pressured into withdrawing. We will protect these areas and we are also ready to help both Shia and Sunnis to save them from this crisis, but this can only be achieved with new people who believe in co-existence, democracy, and the Constitution. This cannot be done with people who have destroyed the country.”

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Prime Minister Barzani discusses security with delegation from French Foreign Ministry

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met yesterday with Jean-François Girault, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the current situation in Iraq.

In the meeting, discussions centered on developments after the seizure of Mosul and other areas by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorist organization, the threat of terrorism, and the consequences of such events, including the displacement of the hundreds of thousands of civilians now being sheltered in the Kurdistan Region and receiving emergency support by the KRG.

Director Girault emphasised that terror is a global issue, and it is therefore the responsibility of the international community to confront it. He added that the issue of terrorism in Iraq cannot be solved through military operations alone but requires a political solution.

Prime Minister Barzani explained that Iraq after the fall of Mosul is very different than it was before, and the current circumstances necessitate an entirely new approach. He reiterated that any solution must be based on the new reality in Iraq. The Prime Minister also pointed to the importance the KRG attaches to its relationship with France, and he thanked Director Girault and his accompanying delegation for their position against terrorism in all forms.

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Deputy Prime Minister convenes Oil and Gas Council to discuss fuel shortages

Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani yesterday chaired a meeting which included several ministers, the KRG Oil and Gas Council, and Kurdistan’s governors to discuss measures to tackle fuel shortages in the Region.

The meeting was designed to identify solutions to overcome the current fuel shortage, considering the current situation in Kurdistan and throughout Iraq and the difficulties facing citizens.

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani highlighted the importance of accelerating the import of commercial gasoline, priced reasonably, and the continued distribution of subsidized gasoline. He also stressed the importance of a workable solution because of the holy month of Ramadan and the current situation in Kurdistan.

It was reiterated that priority would be given to the Kurdistan Region’s security forces currently deployed on the front lines to protect the Region. Their gasoline will be provided through their chief of operations, and the KRG will continue to provide the needed petrol for the forces.

The Minister of Natural Resources explained the decision to price imported gasoline at private sector filling stations at 1,250 Iraqi Dinars per liter and to maintain the price of subsidized gasoline at 500 Iraqi Dinars per liter, with the prices to be reviewed in the coming two months.

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KRG requires Federal Oil Minister to cease interfering in KRG oil export

Following the decision of the Supreme Federal Court on June 24th to reject the Federal Oil Minister’s request for an injunction to stop the Kurdistan Regional Government from legally exporting oil, the KRG has written to the Minister of Oil demanding he heed the court ruling and desist from any further interference in the business of KRG oil export.

See the original letter in Arabic and the translation in English

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The Supreme Federal Court Rules Against Iraqi Minister of Oil’s Request to Prevent KRG Oil Exports

 Immediately after the KRG’s first export shipment on the United Leadership vessel in Ceyhan Terminal, the Iraqi Federal Oil Minister (the “Minister”) submitted a formal request to the Federal Supreme Court in Baghdad, (the “Court”) asking the Court to rule against the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources and prevent it exporting oil out of the Kurdistan Region.

On 23rd June 2014, the Court convened a special meeting to address the Minister’s request and, after examining the reasoning behind his request, the Court decided unanimously to reject the request of the Minister “for being contrary to the applicable legal contexts in Iraq.”

It is worth noting here that the Minister’s claims were based on his own interpretation of constitutional provisions to claim that the oil and gas affairs fall within the exclusive powers of the federal government. In so claiming, the Minister was relying on the centralized laws enacted prior to 2003, thus ignoring the fact that current constitutional provisions do not incorporate any oil and gas matters within Article 110, which defines the  exclusive powers of the federal government.

With this Court decision, the Kurdistan Regional Government has another important clarification of its acquired rights as stated in the Constitution.  The Court ruling was taken by a unanimous decision of all its members, and it explicitly rejected the request made by the Minister. Such a decision by the highest court in the land is binding on the Minister and cannot be challenged in any way.

This is a clear victory for justice and for upholding KRG’s rights, despite the Iraqi Federal Oil Ministry‘s interferences and unjustifiable interventions. This decision clearly demonstrates that the Federal Oil ministry and its marketing arm (SOMO) will also fail on all their reckless efforts on the international level.

This judicial decision by the Supreme Federal Court must be respected, and now we call upon the Federal Oil Ministry, SOMO and all their helpers to abandon their illegal and unconstitutional interventions to prevent oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. They must also cease sending intimidating and threatening letters or making false claims to prospective traders and buyers of oil exported legally by the Kurdistan Regional Government for the benefit of the people of Kurdistan and Iraq.

Please click here to see the decision (PDF, Arabic)