Nechirvan_Barzani_2014

Iraq conflict: Kurds ‘will not help retake Mosul’

Nechirvan_Barzani__2014_03_15_h9m19s3__DKKurdish Peshmerga forces will not help Iraq’s army retake the city of Mosul from jihadist militants, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government says.

Nechirvan Barzani told the BBC that his “top priority” was to protect KRG-administered areas in the north-east.

He also called for Iraq’s Sunni Arabs to be given their own autonomous zone.

In the past week, Peshmerga fighters have taken control of several cities and towns deserted by Iraqi soldiers in the face of the jihadist advance.

They include the city of Kirkuk, which along with the surrounding oil-rich province of Tamim, is at the heart of a political and economic dispute between the KRG and the Arab-led central government in Baghdad.

‘Wrong policy’

Speaking to the BBC’s Jim Muir in Irbil, Mr Barzani was emphatic that the Kurds’ top priority now was to defend their own areas.

He ruled out using Peshmerga fighters – thought to number around 75,000 – to drive out the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) from Sunni Arab areas, saying it was not just a question of terrorism.

The KRG’s prime minister blamed the crisis on policies pursued by the Shia Prime Minister in Baghdad, Nouri Maliki, whom Sunni Arabs have accused of discriminating against them and monopolising power.

“It’s not only ISIS. It’s the result of the wrong policy in Baghdad vis-a-vis Sunni areas. It’s about the Sunni community feeling neglected,” he said.

Mr Barzani, the nephew of Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzani, believed Iraq would never be the same.

“I don’t think it can stay together. As I said: Iraq before Mosul, and Iraq after Mosul. So now we have to sit down and find a formula how to live together, but if we think that Iraq will go back like before Mosul, I don’t think so – it’s almost impossible.”

Creating an autonomous Sunni Arab region might be the answer, he said.

“We have to leave it to Sunni areas to decide, but I think this is the best model for them as well. First, they have to take a decision: what they want exactly. And in our view… the best way is to have a Sunni region, like we have in Kurdistan.”

“There is no trust between Maliki and the Kurds, and even with Shia groups. So, in my view, [a political solution] is difficult,” he added.

Mr Barzani said the US should help Iraq, but only on the condition that Mr Maliki – whose State of Law bloc won the most seats in April’s parliamentary elections – was denied a third term in office.

“If the situation can go back to normal without Maliki, I think they have to do it.”

Iran is reported to be pressing the Kurds to join the campaign against ISIS and its allies. But, our correspondent says, they clearly would not even consider it, without a major change in Baghdad.

KRG_MNR__2014_01_30_h12m2s46__SF

Minister Hawrami: New Iraq needs power-sharing and adherence to constitution to avoid further chaos

The key to Iraq’s unity is power-sharing, revenue-sharing and the implementation of the Constitution, Dr Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Minister of Natural Resources, told a London conference yesterday.

Dr Hawrami, speaking at the CWC Iraq Petroleum conference, outlined the disputes between Erbil and Baghdad on the KRG’s budget, which Baghdad has unilaterally cut this year, the under-delivery of domestic fuel to the people of Kurdistan, which was 3.4% last year when it should have been 17%, and differences over the Constitution on oil production and exports.

“The policies of centralisation and discrimination have put Iraq’s future at risk,” said Dr Hawrami.‎ “As of last week (following the crisis in Mosul) there is a new Iraq. Iraq needs power-sharing, revenue-sharing and adherence to the constitution. Otherwise we will have more chaos in Iraq.”

Dr Hawrami explained that the federal budget law in 2013 had introduced a minimum export requirement of 400,000 barrels per day by the KRG, but this figure was unrealistic and had been inserted into the budget without consultation with the KRG. He said that the KRG should have received $6 billion as its budget so far this year; instead, it had received $900 million. The KRG has been forced to borrow $3 billion locally and internationally, and it will be able to overcome the budget shortfall by exporting up to ‎250,000 bpd from July, with the aim of increasing to 400,000 bpd by the end of the year.

The minister said that Kurdish oil sales would continue through the Ceyhan port in Turkey and that two tankers of oil had already been sold, with a further two tankers expected to load this week for their agreed buyers.  He outlined that international oil companies have already invested $15 billion in the energy sector so far, and they are required to invest $10 billion more in the next two years. The Minister explained that the oil and gas sector, including services, employs about 33,000 people in Kurdistan, 87‎% of whom are locals.

Dr Hawrami reiterated the articles in the Iraqi Constitution that give the KRG the authority to export oil. He also said that the KRG now had the necessary pipeline infrastructure in place to enable the resumption of export from the Kirkuk oilfields, which have seen no exports since March due to persistent sabotage attacks on export infrastructure outside the KRG controlled area.

He concluded by saying, “Despite all the unfair treatment and discrimination, the KRG reaches out to Iraq and is ready to cooperate, to work together to resolve these problems.”

Click here to see Dr Ashti Hawrami’s presentation at the CWC Iraq Petroleum conference 2014.

presedint_barzani_pope__2014_06_01_h13m35s36__MZ

Pope Francis hails President Barzani’s role in protecting Iraqi Christians and Syrian refugees

Pope Francis commended Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani and the citizens of the Region for their protection of Christians fleeing violence in other parts of Iraq and the safe haven provided for Syrian refugees.

In a formal meeting held at the Vatican, the Pope explained that he was aware of the tragic history of the Kurds and the current situation in Kurdistan. He lauded the KRG’s policy of tolerance and acceptance of religious and ethnic minorities and extended his wishes for prosperity and safety to the people of the Kurdistan Region.

President Barzani also highlighted the principle of tolerance and emphasized that it is an integral part of Kurdish culture, which is based upon peaceful coexistence. In Kurdistan people of different religions have made sacrifices together in the past and now live side by side in peace.

The President said that he views support for Syrian refugees and persecuted Iraqi Christians as a humanitarian obligation, and he explained that the people of the Kurdistan Region would do their best to provide protection and assistance. He added that citizens are entitled to live freely within their country, and it is unacceptable that Christians should have to flee their homes in Iraq because of violence or discrimination.

pm_nb_par__2014_06_04_h20m16s40__MZ

Prime Minister Barzani addresses Kurdistan Parliament’s Oil & Gas and Legal Committees

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani yesterday conducted a lengthy meeting with the Kurdistan Parliament regarding natural resources policy and budgetary matters.

Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Dr. Yousif Mohammed, heads of the parliament’s political blocs, the Oil & Gas Committee, and the Legal Affairs Committee all participated in the session. The Prime Minister, Minister of Natural Resources Dr. Ashti Hawrami, and KRG Council of Ministers Legal Advisor Dr. Amanj Raheem answered questions from Members of Parliament and discussed oil export and the road forward.

An excerpt of the Prime Minister’s address is below, as well as his response to two questions from Members of Parliament.

Prime Minister’s address

“The issue of energy is highly important to us. It has no relations to party politics, nor is it a personal matter. It is related to the Kurdistan Region in general and in reality it is quite a sensitive issue and it is essential that the Parliament, in its role as the legislative institution, be fully informed on the details of this issue. Our policy has been created within the framework of the laws that have been established by the Kurdistan Parliament and hence the parliament should be privy to all the details related to this issue.

“The big question is: ‘who will control the oil’? Counterparts in Baghdad did not identify ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ KRG actions – they just wanted to control the issue completely. We do not view this issue as a path towards Kurdistan’s independence, but rather as the expression of our constitutional rights. These rights are the constitutional principles upon which we agreed when we returned to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and they have to be implemented in Iraq.

“If Baghdad today agreed with us upon the issue of oil revenue sharing, one of Iraq’s most important laws, it would lead to the resolution of a number of obstacles related to this issue. However if I speak frankly, Iraq’s federal government increases the sovereign expenditures year after year without the Kurdistan Region’s knowledge, and this is reduced from Kurdistan’s share of the Iraqi budget.

“At a time when Baghdad regularly increases its sovereign expenditure, the burden placed upon the KRG increases and citizens’ expectations of the government, in terms of services, are considerable. This is the right of citizens, and they are fully entitled to these demands. In addition, we have a large number of civil servants on the government payroll in Kurdistan. For your information, 850 billion Iraqi dinars per month are spent on the salaries of civil servants. This is a very large figure and it needs to be addressed. It cannot continue in this way.

“In order to reach international standards…we need more than $US 31 billion to meet the demands for infrastructure in Kurdistan such as highways and roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other essential needs.

“We are determined to carry out our constitutional rights and to ensure that we receive from Baghdad the full 17% of the Kurdistan Region’s share of the budget.

“In last week’s session we provided solid clarifications. And today we have come here because without doubt esteemed Members of the Kurdistan Parliament, as members of the legislative institution in Kurdistan, have many questions that they would like to see answered. The aims of Members of Parliament are to determine whether the KRG’s oil policy will be successful or not, as well as to understand the government’s future plans. This includes the manner in which the KRG plans on spending the revenue we receive.

“We want to address these questions openly and transparently in Parliament today so that we can reach a mutual consensus regarding the energy issue in Kurdistan. And just as Speaker of Parliament Dr. Yousif explained, we want energy to be a national issue and to resolve doubts about its transparency. We are ready to answer these questions in front of the Kurdistan Parliament, as it is our legislative institution, and so we are ready to attend any time to be questioned and to be held accountable.

“We fully believe that the achievements of the KRG are in the best interest of the Kurdistan Region, and are in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution. We are confident. But the task is not easy; in fact, is it quite difficult.

“The main requirement for the success of this process is a united stance among all of Kurdistan’s political parties on this issue.”

Responses to questions from Members of Parliament

In response to questions from Members of Parliament regarding the position of the United States, Prime Minister Barzani stated that the policy of the United States is and has been to support both Baghdad and Erbil in efforts to reach an agreement, as has been reiterated by American diplomats on every occasion. The KRG wished that, when considering the oil issue, the United States had pointed to Baghdad’s unilateral and unconstitutional decision to cut the Kurdistan Region’s share of the budget. The KRG resorted to exporting oil following Baghdad’s decision to cut the budget of the Region, an act that has affected the payment of salaries of civil servants. The KRG has been forced to pursue a solution because of this action.

In response to questions regarding the agreement between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey, the Prime Minister stated, “We should not view this issue as political. We have held meetings with our Turkish counterparts over a lengthy period of time, and it culminated in a protocol for long-term cooperation on energy issues and is subject to extension. The agreement was a result of a long series of meetings. We do not consider this to be a political move to divide Iraq. That is not the case.”