KRG cabinet meeting
KRG cabinet meeting

Live: PUK ministers to attend cabinet meeting

Last updated:
Newest first
Newest first
Oldest first
See latest updates
See one new update
See new updates
No posts for now
For the first time since Nawroz, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo convened today. The meeting summary emphasized unity and potential political advancements, noting, "The Politburo expressed satisfaction with the promising domestic climate in the Kurdistan Region, recognizing the efforts of Kurdish parties and national allies to build consensus and strengthen capabilities. The bureau also voiced hope that the reform process's progress and success will catalyze significant governance developments," a sentiment aligning with recent statements from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The meeting, chaired by Bafel Talabani, began by acknowledging his return and improved health. Talabani returned to Sulaymaniyah last week after seeking treatment abroad for undisclosed arm injuries, both of which are now in casts. The specifics of the cause and nature of his injuries have not been disclosed.

The PUK is due to stage a dramatic comeback to the KRG cabinet tomorrow after months of boycotts.
Ano Abdoka's claim that "there is a need to create a special voter register for the voters of the Christian component and to limit the vote to them only" might be shocking to many considering how close Abdoka and the NUA are to the KDP. Abdoka was previously a member of the KDP, and many (including NGOs and other Assyrian parties) accuse the KDP of directly helping his candidates win in the 2018 election.

However, the party has gradually shifted its rhetoric over the last few months as they face increasing scrutiny and pressure from both Kurdish parties and other Assyrian parties dissatisfied with the current arrangement. This culminated with Soran Omar, a KJG MP in Baghdad, lodging a complaint against the KRG’s parliament in the Iraqi Federal Court, claiming the seats allocated to minorities are unconstitutional.

Although we don’t yet know the reason for this shift in the NUA’s stated position, it is likely due to fear that public sentiment will turn against them. The issues with the current voting arrangement for minority quota seats have been among the most hotly debated topics on Kurdish media in recent months.

When asked whether it prefers a single register for all voters or special registers for minorities, the KDP has consistently had the same response: "It’s not up to us. We should let minorities decide for themselves." They would then point to their allies in parliament, including Abdoka’s NUA.

It’s unlikely that the KDP is pleased with Abdoka’s party advocating for a special voter register for Christians. However, since there has been no sign of a deterioration in the relationship between Abdoka and the KDP thus far, the party might understand the challenging position he is likely in.
Iran, Iraq extend gas export contract for another five years

Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji announced Saturday that Iran and Iraq will extend their gas export agreements for five more years. The declaration followed a meeting with Iraq's Minister of Electricity, Ziad Ali Fazel.

While on a diplomatic visit to Baghdad, Owji emphasized that a significant result of his trip was creating a mechanism to prolong the current gas export contracts between both nations.

Iraq, despite being the second-largest OPEC oil producer and possessing one of the world's most extensive oil and gas reserves, heavily depends on Iranian gas to fuel its electric plants.

Iran presently maintains two separate agreements for providing gas to power plants in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq.

Earlier this week, the oil ministers from Iran and Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on investment and development in oil fields along their shared border.

The MoU signing suggests an enhancement of their energy ties, persisting despite U.S. pressure on Baghdad to diminish its reliance on Iranian energy and pursue self-sufficiency. Washington has granted temporary sanctions exemptions to Iraq to prevent power outages.

The contract extension follows Iran's Ministry of Petroleum establishing a representative office in Baghdad last year, with plans to open two additional offices in Erbil and Basra. These developments underscore the growing interdependence of energy sectors in Iraq and Iran, despite international political pressure on Iraq to free itself from such dependence.

Owji said to Iranian Mehr news agency that both nations view the contract extensions as beneficial to their mutual interests and economic stability.

Iraq owes Iran approximately $18 billion, mainly for gas and electricity. However, U.S. sanctions impede repayment.

Under the agreement, Iran sends 55 million cubic meters of gas and 1,500 megawatts of electricity to Iraq daily, though these amounts decrease during summer due to Iran's domestic demand.
A potentially significant statement by the KRG's Minister of Transport and Communication. In a call for "fraternal dialogue" between the KDP and PUK, Ano Abdoka says he supports separate voter registers for members of minority groups voting for minority candidates. This has been a key demand from the PUK to back elections this year.

Full text: A Statement from the Presidency of the National Unity Alliance (NUA)

The Kurdistan Region has recently experienced a tense political atmosphere and circumstances, due to unresolved issues among various political parties. 

In the midst of this political crisis, His Excellency President Masoud Barzani, through his speech on 11/5/2023 at the inauguration of the Barzani National Memorial in the village of Barzan, extended an invitation to all political parties in the region — particularly the two main parties, the PUK and KDP — to resolve their differences through open and fraternal dialogue. This is an effort to end the crisis and political stalemate in the region, with the direct support of His Excellency.

As the largest national bloc representing our people (Christian - Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac) in the Kurdistan Parliament, we, the NUA, express our solidarity and support for this commendable initiative. We greatly appreciate President Barzani's role in resolving the disputes between political parties and his readiness to support all efforts to overcome obstacles, leading to a breakthrough in the current political situation.

Therefore, we urge all political parties in the Kurdistan Region to respond positively to President Barzani's initiative. It is imperative that we unite to face the challenges and obstacles facing the Kurdistan Region. We also call for the holding of fair and transparent parliamentary elections as soon as possible, within the constitutional and legal context. Primarily, this entails ensuring the right and preservation of the national quota for our people, through the mechanisms that our coalition has presented in its letter to UNAMI, and its stated position in the meeting with the Presidency of Parliament.

Following our meeting on 13 April, we released an official statement:

First: Parliamentary elections should be held as soon as possible, without any delay, and on the date set by His Excellency, the President of the Kurdistan Region.

Second: The national elections for the quota of the Christian component (Chaldeans, Syriacs, and Assyrians) should be conducted within one electoral district without any fragmentation throughout the Kurdistan Region.

Third: A special voter register should be created for the Christian component's voters (Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Syriacs), limiting the vote to them only. Additionally, we need to establish specific polling stations, ballot boxes, and ballot cards for this component.

Anu Johar Abdel-Masih Abdoka
President of the National Unity Alliance 13/5/2023
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has announced that a total of 429 individuals, primarily Iraqis, have been evacuated from Sudan since April 27.

In a coordinated effort, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Defense, and the Air Force successfully repatriated 429 Iraqi citizens.

This operation was conducted across three separate flights: two on April 27, 2023, and the third on May 12, 2023.
Multiple Iraqi cities were blanketed by sandstorms today, an unwelcome signal for the start of summer.

Images from Kirkuk and Erbil depict the cities shrouded in a yellow haze, while locals report respiratory issues. As Iraq grapples with the effects of climate change, both the frequency and intensity of these sandstorms are expected to increase.

Previously relatively rare, sandstorms are becoming increasingly common and hazardous for Iraqis, inflicting both a human and economic costs on the country.

A particularly severe storm can halt flights and send thousands of Iraqis to the hospital. According to the World Health Organization's 2004 Global Burden of Disease report, poor air quality in Iraq can be attributed to as many as ten thousand premature deaths. A 2019 World Bank study estimates that sand and dust storms cost MENA countries approximately $154 billion annually.

It was against this backdrop that the Iraqi government decided to join the Paris Agreement in late 2021. Since then, the government has pledged to address climate change in various ways, with Prime Minister Sudani promising comprehensive measures in March. However, many of the government's promises have yet to be fulfilled, and many people believe they aren't doing enough to mitigate the impact of climate change on the country.

Meanwhile, thousands are being displaced to urban areas as they increasingly struggle with drought.
Despite the Iraqi Oil Minister's announcement that oil exports from Kurdistan would restart on Saturday, a source from the Iraqi Oil Marketing Company (SOMO) stated that this has not yet occurred. The SOMO source told NRT Kurdish that no specific date for the resumption has been set.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hayan Abdul Ghani confirmed last Thursday in a statement that SOMO had informed Turkish company Botas about the resumption of export operations from Saturday, May 13. Ghani mentioned that contracts with international companies for the sale and marketing of crude oil from the Turkish port of Ceyhan had been finalized, in line with standard SOMO procedure.

On the same day, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) stated that all necessary steps for restarting oil exports had been successfully taken. The MNR added that SOMO had officially directed Turkey to resume oil exports through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.

However, in an interview with Rudaw TV, Kamal Mohammad Salih, the acting minister of natural resources for the Kurdistan Regional Government, denied reports that oil exports from the Kurdistan Region would recommence on Saturday. Muhammed said he had learned about the resumption through the media and had reached out to the Iraqi oil minister for confirmation. He clarified that while the KRG is ready to resume exports, no specific date has been agreed upon yet.

Following a delay due to the ICC ruling, Baghdad and Erbil have come to a tentative agreement to restart oil flow. Since then, both governments have been working on finalizing the details, including revising contracts with oil traders.

The suspension of oil exports has plunged the Kurdistan Region's already fragile budget to meltdown, leaving Erbil with no choice but to wait for funds from Baghdad to distribute public sector salaries and pensions.
Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani met with a Yazidi delegation led by the Yazidi Emir, Hazim Tahsin Beg, at his residence in Nineveh today.

This was followed by a rare visit to the Nineveh Plains, where he engaged with leaders from the Shabak and Chaldean-Assyrian minorities. Summaries from the four meetings echoed similar themes, with the Prime Minister pledging security, coexistence, and reconstruction.

Tensions in Sinjar recently escalated after Yazidis protested the return of alleged ISIS members to their territories, leading to a significant rise in hate speech against the beleaguered minority. Despite the Iraqi government's call for peace, the situation highlights the precarious living conditions of the Yazidis.

Although Sudani, like his predecessors, has made efforts to reach out to the minorities in Nineveh and has frequently acknowledged Iraq’s diversity, the security situation remains tenuous and reconstruction efforts have stalled.

Just four days ago, Human Rights Watch published a report criticizing the Iraqi government's reluctance to compensate Yazidi survivors who were victimized by ISIS.
The Turkish Defence Ministry has reported the killing of two Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters in retaliation for the death of a Turkish soldier in the Kurdistan Region.

Turkish media outlets reported yesterday that Private Muhammed Küçük was killed during the ongoing Claw Lock Operation in the border areas between Iraq and Turkey.

Turkey regularly conducts cross-border operations in the Kurdistan Region targeting PKK fighters.
Following a suspected Islamic State (IS) attack on an Iraqi security forces post in the Gwer sub-district, Makhmour district, of Erbil province, Peshmerga forces have reassured residents that the area has been surveyed and no IS threats remain. 

IS militants remain active, carrying out sporadic attacks targeting civilian and military targets in disputed territories, including the town of Makhmour, southwest of Erbil. 

Brigadier General Himdad Heini, a Peshmerga commander, spoke to Rudaw about local concerns. He suggested that some Arab residents in the area might disseminate misinformation about IS activity, aiming to spread fear among the Kurdish residents and prompt them to evacuate the contested territory.

Full statement from the Ministry of Peshmerga:

Following an attack by IS terrorists on the Iraqi army forces yesterday, and after suspicions arose that they [IS militants] had infiltrated an area under Peshmerga control, the 21st Infantry Brigade of the Ministry of Peshmerga conducted a search and inspection operation within the area of its responsibility on May 12, 2023, starting at 07:30 in the morning. 

The second regiment and a commando unit participated in the operation, during which the areas of Zei Gwer, Naw chem, and the Gwer rivers were part of the sweep. The most dense and rugged areas were suspected of infiltration. The operation concluded at 10:30 in the morning, and the second phase of the operation commenced later in the afternoon to further reassure the residents of the area. 

The Peshmerga forces want to reassure the residents of the area that the region is safe, and they will do their utmost to maintain security and peace for the area and its civilians.

Turkey to decline request for oil flow resumption – Bloomberg 

According to Bloomberg, Turkey may decline Iraq's request to restart oil exports through the port of Ceyhan this weekend. They cite an unnamed Turkish official close to the matter.

This comes despite the Iraqi Oil Minister's optimism about a weekend resumption. The prolonged suspension, linked to a $1.5 billion tribunal ruling against Turkey and upcoming Turkish elections, has affected energy markets and frustrated industry stakeholders.

Genel's CEO, Paul Weir, voiced his disappointment in the article: "Although there continues to be speculation regarding the timing of resumption of exports, we cannot predict with any certainty when exports will recommence."

Around 10% of Iraq's total production, mostly exported from southern ports on the Persian Gulf, typically passes through Ceyhan.

Read more in the full Bloomberg article below
Harem Kamal Agha, the PUK faction leader in the Iraqi parliament, noted during NRT Kurdish's midday news bulletin that Ankara continues to halt the resumption of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region.

This decision is influenced by the hefty fine imposed by a French arbitration court in March and the currently ongoing Turkish elections. 

Here is the full quote: 
"This situation is both political and technical. Following a loss in the French arbitration court, which resulted in a $1.6 billion fine, Turkey wants the Iraqi government to bear this financial responsibility. But achieving this is challenging, if not impossible. Concurrently, Turkey is in the midst of a hotly contested election. Therefore, I believe that oil exports will not resume until the Turkish elections have concluded.

"The Iraqi government has given the green light to Turkey to resume oil exports, but Ankara continues to suspend oil exports, claiming that the pipeline needs cleaning, maintenance, and restoration. There were no issues with the pipelines before the court ruling. I believe oil exports will only resume once the Turkish elections are over."
In a statement to Al Ahad, Kadhim Al Touki MP, a member of the Oil and Energy Committee in Iraq's parliament, says that a joint committee has been formed by the Iraqi oil ministry and Turkey. Their goal is to examine the damages to the Kirkuk–Ceyhan Oil Pipeline. 

"The primary reason for the delay in resuming Kurdistan region’s oil exports is the damages from the recent earthquake in Turkey," Al Touki claimed. He added that this delay comes despite the central government's decision to restart oil exports from Ceyhan.

However, this claim contradicts statements made by Iraqi Oil Minister Hayan Abdul Ghani. In a recent appearance in Basra, Ghani stated that Turkey had yet to respond to Baghdad's request. There were also conflicting reports at the time of the earthquake. An energy official told Reuters, "There is no damage to the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline carrying oil from Iraq to Turkey, or to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Oil flows are continuing on both pipelines following the earthquake." This was further supported by the fact that oil flow resumed just a day after the earthquake. It only ceased again after the decision of the ICC International Court of Arbitration was made public over a month later. Ostensibly, this was at Iraq's request. But now Iraq's requests to restart them are falling on deaf ears.

Al Touki's comments to Al Ahad, a channel linked to Asaib Ahl Al Haq, likely reflect the position of a hardline faction in Baghdad. This group is reported to be less enthusiastic about a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Analysts generally see this faction, the upcoming elections in Turkey, and the technical negotiations between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments as the three main obstacles to restarting the pipeline.

Despite these challenges, Baghdad and Erbil had reached a deal to restart the pipeline on April 4th.

The Kirkuk province police spokesperson reported that two female landowners were injured following the detonation of a hand grenade in a farming field situated in the Qarahanjiri district.

Police spokesperson Amer Shwani conveyed to NRT Kurdish that the women were tending to their field when the grenade exploded. The cause of the detonation remains unclear, but Shwani speculates that it might have resulted from the grenade's age and exposure to heat. 

Following the explosion, the women received injuries and were promptly transported to a medical facility; their condition is currently stable, confirmed Shwani. 

Security forces were quick to reach the incident site; an investigation is ongoing.

Shakhawan Abdullah, the Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, expects that the finance committee will finalize its report on the budget bill and schedule a vote for it this week. Abdullah told the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s mouthpiece,, that the finance committee has thoroughly discussed the bill with the relevant ministries and agencies, and stated, "Parliament will convene this week to vote on it."

The Iraqi Parliament conducted the first and second readings of the bill in April. This bill, pertaining to the federal budget for the years 2023-2025, was approved by the Council of Ministers on March 13. Due to political instability, the government had to function without a budget law in 2022.

The Iraqi budget is largely dependent on income generated from oil revenue. As such, the bill projects earnings of approximately 117.25 trillion dinars (approximately $89.54b) from selling 3.5 million barrels of oil per day, in addition to some non-oil revenue of around 17.3 trillion dinars ($13.2b). This brings the total estimated revenue to 134.5 trillion dinars ($103b).

However, the government plans to spend 199.022 trillion dinars ($152b), resulting in a substantial budget deficit of 64.047 trillion dinars ($49b).

The bill states that the Kurdistan Region has been allocated 12.6 percent of the new budget

Morning Briefing

Happy weekend, folks. Here are the most significant headlines from the past 12 hours. Stay tuned for detailed reporting throughout the day!

  • In an interview with K24, KRG Spokesperson Jotiar Adil claimed that the PUK ministerial team would attend tomorrow's regular Council of Ministers meeting. This will mark the first time the PUK has attended in 2023.
  • Following the emergence of videos showing villagers defending themselves against alleged ISIS assailants in Gwer, the Peshmerga has announced an operation in the area. A unit is reportedly stationed in the Kapran village currently to reassure locals.
  • Despite an official request from the Iraqi government, the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline has yet to restart. Analysts predict the shutdown will continue until after the pivotal Turkish election.