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PM Barzani: We will not hand Kurdistan Region’s oil control to SOMO

 Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani talked to the press following yesterday’s Parliament session hosting the Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Council.

Prime Minister Barzani said the Region would not hand oil control to the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation, SOMO.  He noted the federal government cannot export oil from Kirkuk without involving the Kurdistan Region. He said, “We wish to settle all outstanding issues with Baghdad. However, if we do not reach agreement, the Kurdistan Regional Government has other solutions.”  The Prime Minister also affirmed that trading with the ISIS terrorist organisation is national betrayal.

He informed the press, “When the Iraqi Government stopped Kurdistan Region’s budget we were not exporting oil and their decision was unilateral. The Kurdistan Region seeks a mechanism where such situations would not reoccur”.

Prime Minister Barzani reiterated that Baghdad has not provided funds for the salaries of the Region’s civil servants since January.  He said, “With the policies we have adopted, we have so far managed to pay salaries to some extent.” He hoped the KRG could soon overcome this situation so the issue of salaries would no longer make headlines. He expressed confidence the KRG would reach that level.

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani informed the press that the United States, Britain, and the United Nations are concerned about the situation and they are exerting pressure on the Iraqi Government to honour the promises they made to the Kurdistan Region during the government formation process. The Deputy Prime Minister said, “We are in touch with these countries on a regular basis and have conveyed our concerns to the United Nations’ envoy in Iraq.”

Prime Minister Barzani said the Kurdistan Region’s priority preference is to reach agreement on issues with Baghdad, but if agreement is not possible it does not mean there are no other solutions. He said, “There are other solutions for sure, but the Region’s first preference is mutual agreement with Baghdad.”

He stated, “We hoped to see clearer initiatives from Iraq’s new prime minister and new oil minister towards resolving these issues. We still hope the issues will be settled. The Iraqi oil minister is expected to visit the Kurdistan Region, we are looking forwards to the meeting, and we will decide on the date to visit Baghdad after meeting with him.”

Prime Minister Barzani noted the Kurdistan Region could earn its full 17 percent share of national revenue by the end of 2015. He added the Kurdistan Region would meet the 11 percent share the Region was receiving from Baghdad through oil sales by March 2015. He explained that Baghdad deducts national expenses applicable to the whole country, plus expenses for running the federal government, and then sends the Region’s share from the remaining balance.

He said the Peshmerga are part of national defense and therefore they should be included in national expenses and not covered from the Region’s budget. The Prime Minister also said Peshmerga forces are currently deployed to places where defending Kurdistan Region does not require their deployment, if they were not part of Iraq’s defense system.

Regarding his meeting with the Governor of Kirkuk, Prime Minister Barzani said they are in touch regularly. He said the Governor of Kirkuk is to visit Turkey and he wanted to consider the Region’s views before his departure.

Regarding trading with the ISIS terrorist organisation, the Prime Minster said, “We view trading with ISIS as national betrayal.” He made clear the KRG would “seriously work on this issue and will hold anyone involved accountable.”

Regarding the plane that was refused permission to land in Slemani last week, Prime Minister Barzani said the plane did not have the required permission from Baghdad. The plane flew to Baghdad and there is no further information.

On the price of fuel, Prime Minister Barzani said he wished the price could be lowered but unfortunately it could not be done under the current situation.

Deputy Prime Minister Talabani informed the press that the Council of Ministers approved a bill to seek funds through borrowing and it was sent to Parliament. Following the bill’s passage into law the KRG will seek international loans.  He added that he visited the UK and UAE to seek loans from international banks as an additional income source. The Deputy Prime Minister said loan money will be used for investment on strategic projects and not for government salaries.

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