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Prime Minister Barzani receives German parliamentary delegation

Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (cabinet.gov.krd) - Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani yesterday met Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, Deputy Head of the Social Democrat Party in the German Parliament and his accompanying delegation.

Mr. Schäfer-Gümbel reaffirmed his country’s support to the Kurdistan Region in military, humanitarian and economic areas to help overcome the challenges facing the Region, and noted his party’s role in offering military aid for Peshmerga forces in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist organization, ISIS.

The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to the German public, government and parliament for their ongoing support to the Kurdistan Region, and praised Germany’s role in sending military support, treating wounded Peshmergas and ISIS victims, particularly the Yezidi Kurds.

Prime Minister Barzani gave an overview of the current situation in the region, including the fight against terrorism and other challenges, particularly the financial crisis gripping the Kurdistan Region, stating that assistance from the international community is needed to overcome them, particularly the expertise and skills to implement reforms.

The Prime Minister also discussed the formation of a committee in charge of resolving the recent political issues, which affected the Parliament and Government. He expressed his hope that all political sides will reach agreement.

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UAE assures project implementation in Kurdistan

The United Arab Emirates Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade, Abdullah Saleh, visited the Kurdistan Region this week to attend the 2014 TradeUAE Iraq conference in Erbil.

The conference included 115 Emirati companies specializing in a wide range of sectors, including energy, the food industry, petrochemicals, construction, as well as companies offering banking and communications services.

Deputy Trade Minister Saleh said that the UAE remains committed to its investment projects in the Kurdistan Region, clarifying that they have not been halted. He attributed delays to minor obstacles, which include bureaucratic issues common in most countries in the region. He said, “The UAE is committed to contribute to the economic growth of Kurdistan, where we have been among the pioneers.”

The Deputy Minister added that business and investment opportunities continue to expand and that this has led to increased opportunities for potential investors in various sectors. He emphasized that the UAE remains committed to investing in Kurdistan as well as expanding its operations and activities, stating that the UAE is not under pressure from the federal government in Baghdad regarding its investment projects in the Kurdistan Region.

Deputy Minister Saleh also said that UAE companies are looking to establish heavy industrial projects to serve the Kurdistan Region as well as Iraq as a whole. He reaffirmed that last year’s conference, the first TradeUAE conference held in Iraq, was also a success and that Erbil will be the gateway for UAE investment. He pointed out that the volume of bilateral trade between Iraq and the UAE exceeds $13 billion, $4 billion of which is invested in Kurdistan, with the majority, $3 billion, dedicated to Erbil.

UAE Consul General Rashid al-Mansouri said that there are more than 120 Emirati companies operating in the Kurdistan Region. He said, “The UAE is committed to strengthening relations with the Kurdistan Region politically and economically, and we will work together towards a strong, strategic relationship.”

The Consul General added, “The UAE will continue to bolster its presence in the Region. We will increase the number of flights, and the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank will open in the near future. Large Emirati companies, such as Taqa and Maydan for housing and construction, as well as a number of state-owned companies will begin work here after the requisite legal procedures are finalized.”

Mr Rashid Al-Jarwan, Executive Director and Board Member of Dana Gas, told KRG.org that Dana Gas has been able to extract more than 100 million barrels of oil suitable for local consumption since it began operations in Kurdistan in 2007. He added that Dana Gas extracted more than 340 million cubic feet of natural gas in the Khormor field. The gas has been used to generate electricity through a 180-kilometre pipeline, and the Kurdistan Region currently produces 1600 megawatts of electricity per day from this supply of gas.

Al-Jarwan said that Dana Gas remains committed to its production level targets and hopes to increase those levels in the coming years. He added that TradeUAE Iraq 2014 provides opportunities for large Emirati companies to contribute to the successful implementation of projects in Kurdistan, which will also enhance the confidence of new investors. He stated that disputes between Baghdad and Erbil have not affected the UAE’s economic activities in the Kurdistan Region, and that the UAE plans to increase its trade volume with Iraq and with the Kurdistan Region in particular.

The conference was attended by Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa, Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi, President of the Kurdistan Region Chambers of Commerce Dara Khayat, UAE Deputy Minister of Economy and Trade Abdullah Saleh, UAE Consul General Rashid al-Mansouri, and a number of KRG and UAE government officials and private sector representatives.

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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.”