ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) representative in Baghdad announced that a Kurdish delegation would begin its visit to Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss a number of often-contentious issues with the federal government, including the budget the upcoming national census.
“The Kurdistan Region wants to resolve all its differences with Baghdad,” Fares Isa told Kurdistan 24 in an interview on Sunday.
The plan for the officials to travel to the nation’s capital to meet with their counterparts in the federal government was decided at a meeting of the regional cabinet on Thursday, but a date had not yet been specified.
“The KRG agreed to send a delegation to Baghdad to ensure the Kurdistan Region’s interests are represented in the 2020 Iraqi budget,” read a government statement released on Wednesday.
During a press conference that day, KRG spokesperson Jotyar Adil said the Kurdish delegation would “initiate talks and exchange information regarding [Iraq’s] budget bill” with Iraq’s Ministry of Finance.
The central government in Baghdad and the KRG have long been at odds over the budget since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. In the budget passed last year, the Kurdistan Region received only 13 percent of the national share, almost a third less than the 17 percent it had been allotted in previous years.
Ties between the two have improved significantly since the beginning of 2019, with the formation of a new federal government headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. Diplomacy between the two had reached an all-time low in the aftermath of the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum in September 2017.
Another controversial issue between the two governments is the planned upcoming census, also scheduled for 2020.
Iraq’s last census was held in 1997 and did not include the Kurdistan Region. More recent counts generally estimate population based on statistics provided by the national food ration program and have often been incomplete in disputed territories.
A full accounting of regional populations is crucial for planning and budgeting in any nation. In Iraq, where mass displacement and campaigns of ethnic cleansing have been endemic to conflict for decades, such a survey takes on political significance.
Lack of reliable statistics has fueled discord between rival populations claiming majorities in various regions of Iraq, most notably in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, adding to the difficulty of addressing fundamental disagreements.
On Thursday, President of the Kurdistan Region Nichervan Barzani met with Nouri Sabah al-Dulaimi, Iraq’s planning minister. In Iraq, the Ministry of Planning is responsible for conducting the census.
In the meeting, Barzani and Dulaimi discussed preparations being made, with a KRG statement stressing that “cooperation and coordination between the federal government, the KRG, and the international community in the process,” was essential.