KRG delegation heads back to Baghdad for talks on oil, budget freeze

A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation returned to the Iraqi capital on Tuesday to continue Erbil–Baghdad talks about oil disputes and the federal government's resulting decision last month to suspend payments of the Kurdistan Region's share of the national budget.
author_image Khrush Najari

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation returned to the Iraqi capital on Tuesday to continue Erbil–Baghdad talks about oil disputes and the federal government's resulting decision last month to suspend payments of the Kurdistan Region's share of the national budget.

The team, led by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, returned to Baghdad for the second time in as many weeks for high-level discussions with top officials following the Iraqi Council of Ministers' abrupt order to the federal finance ministry to immediately freeze funds already allocated to the autonomous region.

"The visit of the region's delegation is a continuation of last week's during which a series of meetings were held and proposals were suggested to resolve the issues of [Kurdistan's] share of Iraq's total budget and oil," said a spokesperson for Talabani on Tuesday.

During its first visit, the delegation held a series of early negotiations during which it had "proposed solutions to the disputes."

Read More: KRG delegation in Baghdad seeks ‘definitive solution’ to budget disputes

Describing Baghdad’s move as "a violation of the law," the KRG sent its federal counterpart a ten-point letter that included documents, statistics, and legal arguments in a purported challenge to Baghdad's move to halt the payments.

Related Article: Kurdistan challenges Iraq's budget payment freeze as KRG delegation meets with Baghdad officials

The monthly disbursement "accounts for half of the money used by [KRG] to pay public sector salaries," according to a statement from Prime Minister Masrour Barzani’s office summarizing his April 27 meeting with the representatives of the United Nations mission to Iraq and World Health Organization (WHO).

On Saturday, a day after the KRG team returned to Erbil, they briefed Barzani on their discussions during an official cabinet meeting, affirming that the KRG "is committed to continuing dialogue with Baghdad to defend Kurdistan Region’s constitutional rights," according to a government statement.

Although Erbil has not announced any results from the intensive rounds of talks in Baghdad last week, Kurdish officials have described them as "positive."

Barzani held one last meeting with the delegation early Tuesday before it headed back down to Baghdad, an informed source told Kurdistan 24, but gave no further details regarding what they spoke about in preparation for the team's second visit.

The renewed disputes come amid ongoing efforts by the third candidate in a row that has been nominated to be the next Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to form a government as his constitutional deadline for doing so fast approaches.

Related Article: Iraqi PM-designate sends gov't program to parliament, proposed cabinet 'in the days to come'

Iraqi President Barham Salih officially tasked Kadhimi to form a cabinet on April 9. From that date, according to the Iraqi constitution, the nominee must submit a ministerial program and the names of his proposed ministers “within a period not to exceed thirty days," or Saturday, to then face a vote before parliament.

Editing by John J. Catherine