Kurdish Independence from Iraq in Five Years, KRG Advisor Says

By RUDAW – 26-1-2014 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Within five years the autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq will have declared independence, according to a senior energy advisor at the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

“Kurdistan is going to be rid of its status as a region within Iraq,” said Ali Balu, a senior advisor at the KRG’s Ministry of Natural Resources. “A plan is underway for Kurdistan to be an independent state in the near future,” he said.

Balu believes that plans and preparations are being made on the international stage aimed at declaring independence, which he says will be driven by Kurdistan’s geostrategic position and rich energy reserves. He said that Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani’s participation at the World Economic Forum in Davos paves the way for international recognition of Kurdistan as an independent state. An MP from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) also believes that oil plays a crucial role in making the case for Kurdish independence from Iraq.

“The existence of international oil companies has put the Kurdistan Region on the radar,” said the MP from the Kurdish legislature. He said oil had raised Kurdistan’s international political and economic standing. Political analysts say that Kurdistan’s stability, inside a region in turmoil, has raised its status as a secure anchor to promote greater peace in the Middle East.

“The Kurdistan Region is not a state, but it has a role in stabilizing the Middle East,” noted Dr. Jutyar Adil, a professor of political science at Salahaddin University.

The Kurdistan Region sits on some 45 billion barrels of oil reserves and more than 110 trillion cubic feet of gas. It has granted oil and gas concessions to some of the world’s biggest energy companies, including ExxonMobil, Gazprom Neft, Total and Chevron. Last year, the Kurdish enclave also signed a multibillion-dollar energy package with neighboring Turkey, which includes construction of a second oil pipeline and one for gas. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani has repeatedly warned that the Kurds would seek independence if Baghdad continues to violate their constitutional privileges, including the right to export oil and receive 17 percent of the national budget. The KRG and Baghdad have been at loggerheads over oil, the budget, Kurdish Peshmarga forces and disputed territories claimed by both sides. http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/25012014