ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – After being sworn in as the new Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region on Wednesday, Masrour Barzani outlined the vision for his new government, underlining that one of its priorities will be to strengthen ties with the central government in Baghdad.
Barzani took his oath of office earlier in the day which confirmed him as the new prime minister of the autonomous Kurdish region following a majority vote by parliament to approve both his appointment and that of his cabinet.
In an interview with Reuters at his office in Erbil, the Kurdish leader said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) would work to build a “strong and constructive” partnership with the Iraqi government.
“The focus of my government will be how to build a stronger relationship and partnership with Baghdad,” Barzani said, adding his government would look for ways to mend ongoing disputes that are “keeping us apart.”
The Kurdistan Region held a historic independence referendum in September 2017 where nearly 93 percent of voters chose secession from Baghdad.
The central government, though, rejected the legality of the vote and responded with a set of punitive measures including a flight ban and the use of military force to regain control of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad.
Ties between the two governments have improved considerably in recent months, due in large part to changes in both governments.
Notable among the perennial disputes between the KRG and the Iraqi government are continued negotiations on oil and gas. The autonomous Kurdish government has exported its oil independently since 2013. Following the post-referendum fallout, the KRG agreed to send 250,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to Baghdad in exchange for the payment of civil servants’ salaries. Officials in Iraq complain that the Kurdish leadership has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.
According to Barzani, he sees room for “quick progress” on the matter as talks between Erbil and Baghdad on the issue are ongoing.
“There is a great potential for a win-win situation,” he told Reuters. “Working together in cooperation with each other, we can increase the production of oil.”
During his inauguration speech at the Kurdistan Parliament on Wednesday, Barzani, who served as the former Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) in the last governmental term, called for further progress in developing a stable and constructive partnership with Iraq.
“Erbil and Baghdad both want security and prosperity, built on a foundation of mutual respect and cooperation,” he said.
Among the missions of his new government outlined on the KRG website is the renewal of Erbil-Baghdad relations as the Kurdistan Region enters “a new era.”
Good governance and reforms are also listed on the mission statement, which promises that the KRG “will dedicate itself to serving the people of this region.”
Editing by John J. Catherine