PM Barzani re­sponds ques­tions on oil and budget rows in par­lia­ment

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

The Speaker of the Kur­dis­tan Par­lia­ment Dr. Yousif Mo­hammed, heads of the Par­lia­ment’s po­lit­i­cal blocs, the Oil & Gas Com­mit­tee, and the Le­gal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee all par­tic­i­pated in the ses­sion. The Prime Min­is­ter, Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Dr. Ashti Hawrami and the KRG Coun­cil of Min­is­ters' Le­gal Ad­vi­sor Dr. Amanj Ra­heem an­swered ques­tions from Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and dis­cussed oil ex­port and fu­ture ex­pec­ta­tions.

An ex­cerpt of the Prime Min­is­ter’s ad­dress is be­low, as well as his re­sponse to two ques­tions from Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment. Prime Min­is­ter’s ad­dress “The is­sue of en­ergy is highly im­por­tant to us. It has no re­la­tions to party pol­i­tics, nor is it a per­sonal mat­ter. It is re­lated to the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion in gen­eral and in re­al­ity it is quite a sen­si­tive is­sue and it is es­sen­tial that the Par­lia­ment, in its role as the leg­isla­tive in­sti­tu­tion, be fully in­formed on the de­tails of this is­sue. Our pol­icy has been for­mu­lated within the frame­work of the laws that have been es­tab­lished by the Kur­dis­tan Par­lia­ment and hence the Par­lia­ment should be privy to all the de­tails re­lated to this is­sue.

“The big ques­tion is: "who will con­trol the oil?" Our coun­ter­parts in Bagh­dad have not iden­ti­fied ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the KRG's ac­tions – they just wanted to con­trol the is­sue com­pletely. We do not view this is­sue as a path to­wards Kur­dis­tan’s in­de­pen­dence, but rather as an ex­pres­sion of our con­sti­tu­tional rights. These rights are the con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples upon which we agreed upon when we re­turned to Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and they have to be im­ple­mented in the coun­try.

“If Bagh­dad to­day agreed with us upon the is­sue of oil rev­enue shar­ing, one of Iraq’s most im­por­tant laws, it would lead to the over­come of a num­ber of ob­sta­cles re­lated to this is­sue. How­ever if I speak frankly, the Iraq’s Federal Govern­ment in­creases the sov­er­eign ex­pen­di­tures year af­ter year with­out the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion’s knowl­edge. This uni­lat­eral pol­icy has re­duced Kur­dis­tan’s share of the Iraqi budget.

“At a time when Bagh­dad reg­u­larly in­creases its sov­er­eign ex­pen­di­tures, the bur­den placed upon the KRG in­creases and the cit­i­zens’ ex­pec­ta­tions of the govern­ment, in terms of ser­vices, are con­sid­er­able. This is the right of our cit­i­zens, and they are fully en­ti­tled to these de­mands. In ad­di­tion, we have a large num­ber of civil ser­vants on the govern­ment pay­roll in Kur­dis­tan. For your in­for­ma­tion, 850 bil­lion Iraqi di­nars per month are spent on the salaries of the civil ser­vants. This is a very large fig­ure and it needs to be ad­dressed. It can­not con­tinue in this way.

“In or­der to reach in­ter­na­tional stan­dards…we need more than $US 31 bil­lion to meet the de­mands for in­fra­struc­ture in Kur­dis­tan such as high­ways and roads, bridges, schools, hos­pi­tals and other es­sen­tial needs.

“We are de­ter­mined to de­mand our con­sti­tu­tional rights and to en­sure that we re­ceive from Bagh­dad the full 17% of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion’s share of the budget.

“In last week’s ses­sion we pro­vided solid clar­i­fi­ca­tions. And to­day we have come here be­cause, with­out doubt, the es­teemed Mem­bers of the Kur­dis­tan Par­lia­ment, as Mem­bers of the Leg­isla­tive In­sti­tu­tion in Kur­dis­tan, have many ques­tions that they would like to be an­swered. The aims of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment are to de­ter­mine whether the KRG’s oil pol­icy will be suc­cess­ful or not, as well as to un­der­stand the govern­ment’s fu­ture plans. This in­cludes the man­ner in which the KRG plans to spend the rev­enue we re­ceive.

“We want to ad­dress these ques­tions openly and trans­par­ently in the Par­lia­ment to­day so that we can reach a mu­tual con­sen­sus re­gard­ing the en­ergy is­sue in Kur­dis­tan. And just as Speaker of the Par­lia­ment Dr. Yousif ex­plained, we want en­ergy to be a na­tional is­sue and to re­solve doubts about its trans­parency. We are ready to an­swer these ques­tions in front of the Kur­dis­tan Par­lia­ment, and so we are ready to be ques­tioned and to be held ac­count­able.

“We fully be­lieve that the achieve­ments of the KRG are in the best in­ter­est of the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion, and are in ac­cor­dance with the Iraqi Con­sti­tu­tion. We are con­fi­dent. But the task is not easy; in fact, it is quite dif­fi­cult.

“The main re­quire­ment for the suc­cess of this process is a united stance among all of Kur­dis­tan’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties on this is­sue.”

Re­sponses to ques­tions from Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment

In re­sponse to ques­tions from Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment re­gard­ing the po­si­tion of the United States, the Prime Min­is­ter Barzani stated that the pol­icy of the United States is and has been to sup­port both Bagh­dad and Er­bil in ef­forts to reach an agree­ment, as has been re­it­er­ated by Amer­i­can diplo­mats on ev­ery oc­ca­sion. The KRG wished that, when con­sid­er­ing the oil is­sue, the United States had pointed to Bagh­dad’s uni­lat­eral and un­con­sti­tu­tional de­ci­sion to cut the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion’s share of the budget. The KRG re­sorted to ex­port­ing oil fol­low­ing Bagh­dad’s de­ci­sion to cut the budget of the Re­gion, an act that has af­fected the pay­ment of salaries of civil ser­vants. The KRG has been forced to find a so­lu­tion be­cause of this ac­tion.

In re­sponse to ques­tions re­gard­ing the agree­ment be­tween the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion and Turkey, the Prime Min­is­ter stated: “We should not view this is­sue as po­lit­i­cal. We have held meet­ings with our Turk­ish coun­ter­parts over a lengthy pe­riod of time, and it cul­mi­nated in a pro­to­col for long-term co­op­er­a­tion on en­ergy is­sues and is sub­ject to ex­ten­sion. The agree­ment was a re­sult of a long se­ries of meet­ings. We do not con­sider this to be a po­lit­i­cal move to di­vide Iraq. That is not the case.”

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