Signs of Baghdad-Erbil Crisis over Oil, Salaries

Wednesday, 22 May, 2019 - 06:15 -

Signs of Baghdad-Erbil Crisis over Oil, Salaries

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Fires flare off the gas from crude oil at Iraq's oldest oil processing plant in Baba Gurgur, outside of Kirkuk. (Nabil al-Jurani/AP)
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi issued on Tuesday his first warning to the Kurdistan region in case it fails to meet its commitment in delivering oil to the Iraqi federal government in exchange for salaries and other financial benefits based on the 2019 state budget.

Jwan Ihsan, head of the PUK bloc in the House of Representatives, said on Tuesday that Abdul Mahdi met in Baghdad with heads of the Kurdistan parliamentary blocs.

“The PM informed us that based on the state budget bill, Baghdad should curtail future budget transfers to the region if it fails to meet its obligations under the budget law to send oil to the Iraqi capital,” Ihsan said.

The deputy added that her bloc informed Abdul Mahdi about the need to deliver the salaries of the region’s government employees and of Peshmerga forces.

“The PM promised that the transfers would be made in line with the law,” Ihsan explained.

Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region disagree over the country’s oil policy.

Abdul Mahdi’s warning is considered the first public criticism to the Kurdistan region during his tenure.

The Iraqi PM has good relations with the region. However, he has made his statements following alleged pressure exerted on him by several parliamentary blocs in Baghdad.

Head of the oil and energy parliamentary committee Haibat al-Halbousi told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that the PM issued his warning after being pressured by committee members.

“We cannot stay silent and wait, particularly that an agreement was reached under the new budget law to exchange oil in return of delivering benefits,” he said.

According to Isam Jihad, a spokesman for the Oil Ministry, the Kurdistan Region should deliver 250,000 barrels per day to the federal government in line with the 2019 budget.

“We are almost in the second half of the year, and no oil has been delivered by the region yet, despite reports that its daily production has exceeded 600,000 or 700,000 barrels per day, while its exports exceeded 400,000 barrels per day,” Jihad said.

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