Iraqi oil minister: Baghdad-Erbil oil disputes 'solvable'
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer al-Ghadhban said on Sunday that ongoing disputes over oil production and financing between the central government and the autonomous Kurdistan Region are "solvable."
"There are solutions that we can reach... based on the constitution which stipulates that oil and gas belong to the Iraqi people in all provinces and regions," Ghadhban told Kurdistan 24.
He added that there must be a "unit of resources" to take responsibility for production and determine who exports it, adding, "These are all points with solutions."
"We have agreed for months to prepare a paper of principles to be agreed upon by both parties," he said. "I don't think there is an issue that we cannot resolve if there is trust and goodwill."
Ties between Erbil and Baghdad drastically spiraled following the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum in September 2017 and remained fractured for months. Relations eventually began to improve, most noticeably after the formation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi's Iraqi government in late 2018.
Notable among the perennial disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government crucial to the economies of both are the continued negotiations on oil and gas.
The KRG has exported its oil independently since 2013. Following the post-referendum fallout, it agreed to send 250,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to Baghdad in exchange for the payment of civil servants’ salaries and other budgetary disbursements. The Kurdish government has yet to implement the oil article.
In mid-August, Abdul Mahdi stated that, despite ongoing disputes regarding regional oil production, Baghdad will continue to fund the salaries of public employees in the Kurdistan Region on time.
It was the second time Abdul Mahdi said he would not cut off civil servants' salaries after calls from some Iraqi political parties urged him to reconsider the Kurdistan Region's budget share and an ongoing case before the supreme court as a result of the region's failure to deliver oil to the federal government as outlined in a previous agreement.
Abdul Mahdi said, "According to the 2019 budget bill, we will deduct 250,000 barrels per day worth of the Kurdistan Region's overall budget if they fail to deliver the oil, but not the salaries of Kurdish employees."
"We will not cut off any Iraqi's source of income," he added.
In late July, officials from the KRG discussed the issue, among others, at a meeting in Erbil with a high-level delegation from Baghdad that included Iraqi's finance minister, oil minister, national security adviser, and Abdul Mahdi's chief of staff.
A joint statement released afterward read, “Both sides agreed to establish a practical mechanism to investigate the details of the hanging issues by forming a number of specialized technical committees from the relevant ministries.
The tasks these committees face, solving Erbil–Baghdad disputes, including territories disputed by the two, is a daunting one. After agreement on the issues that have plagued all previous administrations would be reached, said a source familiar with the recent talks who spoke to Kurdistan 24, a deal between the federal and regional governments reflecting the recent "significant progress" could be inked.