‘It’s not possible for Kurds to separate over a barrel of oil,’ Maliki said.
ERBIL, RUDAW – 20.1.2014 – Kurdistan Region – Following talks with Kurdish officials in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he favored a “language of understanding” to resolve disputes with Erbil, and that differences over oil exports cannot be a reason for the Kurds to separate from Iraq.
Meetings led by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Baghdad to resolve oil and budget rows ended inconclusively on Sunday, with a decision to continue the talks at a later date. Following the closed-door meetings, Maliki softened his stance over threats to cut off the Kurdistan Region from the federal budget, unless there was agreement over revenues from the oil exports to Turkey.
“I have not said I would cut the KRG’s share of the budget. I said there should be a language of understanding to solve the issues between Baghdad and Erbil,” Maliki told Rudaw.
Meanwhile, Barzani said in an interview he had expressed to Baghdad his displeasure over the threats. “We told them frankly that the language of threats is unacceptable and it’s not in the interest of any party,” Barzani told Rudaw. “This is not an issue to be resolved with threats. It needs meetings and negotiations to reach an agreement.”
The main bone of contention is over revenues from oil exports through a newly-extended pipeline to Turkey. The exports have reportedly already begun. But the Turks say they are only storing the oil until an agreement over revenues.
The Kurdistan Region wants to withhold revenues to account for money owed by Baghdad, including the 17 percent annual share of the budget which Kurdish officials complain they have never received in full. The central government, meanwhile, wants the income to be placed into a fund, and given to the KRG as it sees fit. Maliki has favored a “comprehensive budget that includes revenues from the south, central and north.”
Maliki emphasized that “Iraq must remain united for its wealth.”
“Erbil and Baghdad have to be within one state,” said Maliki. “Kurdistan will be weak if it separates and I am against all separation based on oil,” he added.
According to Maliki, the separation of the Kurdistan Region based on differences over oil would not be in the interest of the Kurds, Sunnis or Shiites.
Maliki also called for the formation of a National Council to oversee oil policy in the country until a hydrocarbon law, which has been languishing in the Iraqi parliament due to differences between the KRG and Baghdad, is passed.He demanded that “the public wealth should be distributed fairly and the mechanism of the wealth distribution should be constitutional.”
“If we have disputes over the constitution, then there is the Federal Court to settle such issues. It’s not possible for Kurds to separate over a barrel of oil or money,” he stressed. He also disclosed that, “the KRG delegation said that they would not export oil without Baghdad’s approval.” But Barzani told Rudaw that, “There is no guarantee and no such talk has taken place. No guarantee has been given to anyone.”Meanwhile, Iraq’s deputy prime minister for energy affairs, Hussein Shahristani, said that the two sides had agreed on a general framework. “The brothers from the Kurdistan Region needed more time to study our proposals, but an agreement on a general framework has been reached,” he said.