ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said Sunday that negotiations with Baghdad to resolve energy and budget issues have made no progress, and warned that Erbil’s patience has limits.
“We were expecting to reach an agreement within Iraq and for that we showed a lot of patience, but our patience has a limit,” the premier said at a news conference. “If we know we can’t reach an agreement we will have our own solution,” he warned.
Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan Region has been at loggerheads with the Shiite-led government in Baghdad over several serious issues. Chief among them is the Kurdish wish to export oil and gas independently, while sharing the revenues with Baghdad in accordance with the constitution. Baghdad has said it must control revenues, and to pressure Erbil Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has suspended the Kurdish share of the national budget.
The Kurds note they are constitutionally entitled to 17 percent of the national budget, and complain that in the past Baghdad has paid them only a little over 10 percent. The freezing of the budget has placed a severe financial strain on the Kurdistan Regional Government and its ability to pay civil servants.
Barzani said that Baghdad still has not sent Kurdistan’s budget payments for March and April.
“They sent the budget for only January and February for salaries, which wasn’t enough, while they have dispensed the share of all other Iraqi provinces,” the premier complained.
Meanwhile, Barzani said that relations with neighboring Turkey have witnessed steady progress.
The premier was in Ankara last week, where he met with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other top officials, among them energy minister Taner Yildiz.
Erbil began pumping oil through a newly-extended pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan early this year, but the crude is reportedly being stored. Ankara says it is waiting for Baghdad and Erbil to reach an agreement before the oil can be sold to buyers in Turkey and internationally.
“There is a good understanding between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region in all aspects especially on energy,” said Barzani.
“Turkey has no issues with the Kurdistan Region exporting oil,” added Barzani. “They have a clear policy and say ‘it’s your oil and you can sell it.’”