Premier Barzani Sends Signals to Baghdad at Major Gas Conference

By RUDAW – 2.12.2013 – Barzani said he would assure Baghdad that this process “is in the interest of all the Iraqi people.”The Kurdistan-Iraq Oil & Gas conference opened in Erbil today, with Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani vowing that the Kurdistan Region “will not let go of its right to export oil to the world market,” but emphasizing that Baghdad had no cause for concern over revenue sharing.

Barzani said he would assure Baghdad that this process “is in the interest of all the Iraqi people.”

Earlier, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz, in Erbil for the conference, told Rudaw that Ankara “will not sit idly” and overlook Kurdish supplies of oil and gas so close to its borders. Erbil and Baghdad both appear to have launched a new round of diplomacy focused on changing opposition to the exports by Baghdad and Washington. Remarks by Barzani and Yildiz suggested the campaign is focused on reassuring both governments that exports would be transparent, that the central government in Baghdad would gets its constitutional lion’s share of the revenues and that the deal benefited not only Iraq but the whole region.

The Kurdish prime minister told the conference that negotiations between Erbil and Ankara have been ongoing since May last year, and that “our talks with Turkey were very constructive.”

Addressing Baghdad’s opposition to Kurdistan’s direct oil deals with foreign companies and with Turkey, Barzani said: “The Kurdistan Region wants to deal with these issues transparently and is ready for every negotiation with Baghdad.” Yildiz arrived in Erbil from Baghdad, where he reportedly spoke to officials about the mechanism of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region and how revenues would be divided between Erbil and the central government. In Ankara last week, Barzani signed a “comprehensive energy package” that includes the export of Kurdish oil and natural gas through a pipeline system that is due to be completed soon.

“Our deal is a great victory for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region,” Barzani told the conference in an opening speech. “This process is bringing both sides together and we should reach a mechanism with our Iraqi partners to share the revenue according to the constitution.”

Barzani said that the constitution is the strongest bond between Erbil and Baghdad, “but unfortunately Baghdad is still practicing centralism.”  The Kurdish premier said that “the Kurds will not backtrack and our agreement with Turkey isn’t a threat to anyone.” This is the third edition of the four-day annual energy conference, which is being attended by more than 100 international energy companies and 800 political and diplomatic figures, including Kurdish oil minister Ashti Hawrami. Yildiz could not attend the conference in Erbil last year after the central government in Baghdad refused landing rights to his plane.

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