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6. June 2023 20:05
Iraqi Oil Minister Hayan Abdul Ghani recently stated that the suspension of oil exports from the KRG and Kirkuk through Turkey is expected to be resolved soon. A delegation from Turkey is anticipated to facilitate the resolution, amid reports that the pipeline was damaged due to earthquakes.
In an interview with Rudaw, Abdul Ghani revealed that an initial agreement had been reached with the KRG, allowing Iraq's State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO) to manage the export contracts. He indicated that ongoing discussions with the Turkish authorities aimed to resolve the pipeline issues swiftly.
One of the critical disagreements between the KRG and Baghdad relates to their contracts with oil companies. To address this, a committee comprised of representatives from both parties is examining the contracts. Despite ongoing negotiations, SOMO will export KRG's oil at the same price as Iraqi oil in the international markets. Changes to contracts may be made based on mutual agreement and in accordance with the Iraqi constitution.
Though the export suspension has caused disruption, the Minister considers it not wholly negative as it coincided with OPEC's request for Iraq to reduce production. Around 475,000 to 500,000 barrels per day were affected, positively impacting market oil prices. While Abdul Ghani cast doubt on earthquakes being the primary reason for the suspension, he expects oil exports to resume soon.
Suspension began after a Paris arbitration body decision, with earthquakes further impeding the process. The Minister denied claims that Turkey requested Iraq to waive a court-ordered payment of approximately $1.41 billion.
With the need for alternative export routes suggested, Abdul Ghani said they're considering exporting oil through Jordan and possibly revitalizing the Iraq-Baniyas pipeline. Despite rumors of international companies' hesitancy to operate in Iraq, the Minister asserted that major firms like BP are actively progressing operations, particularly in the Rumaila oilfield.
Turkey halted the region's oil exports on March 25, following an International Chamber of Commerce ruling in Paris that favored Iraq, ordering Ankara to pay $1.5 billion for exporting oil without Baghdad's consent from 2014-2018.
The export suspension has caused an estimated loss of around $2 billion, posing a significant financial challenge to both the KRG and the Iraqi government.
6. June 2023 19:14
Deputy premier voices discontent over current political climate in Kurdistan
The KRG's Deputy Premier, Qubad Talabani (PUK), has expressed his dissatisfaction with the current political situation in the Kurdistan region during a meeting with the French Consul General, Olivier Decottignies. He emphasized the need for improved relations between political parties, indicative of escalating tensions between the KDP and PUK.
Talabani aired his concern about the region's unity, stating, "as Kurds, we need to be more unified and reorganize our internal matters, as greater and more pivotal challenges lie ahead for Kurdistan." Despite the current situation, he believes there is still an opportunity to "reach an agreement considering the risks we face."
Reflecting on the situation in Baghdad, Talabani linked the region's challenges with the happenings in Baghdad, underlining their interrelation. He asserted that "the situation in Baghdad reflects the internal condition in the Kurdistan region;" therefore, "we need to be unified." He urged all parties to reassess their positions to achieve a "unified stance."
Yesterday, Talabani met with Jessica Svärdström, the Swedish ambassador to Iraq. During the meeting, he expressed concerns that party disputes could destabilize the region's politics and economy. He indicated that disagreements, possibly between KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and PUK leader Bafel Talabani, could further jeopardize the future of the Kurdistan Region.
At present, both the PUK and the KDP are involved in discussions with other Iraqi political factions and the Parliamentary Finance Committee regarding disputed sections of the proposed budget law. The KDP maintains that changes to articles 13 and 14 threaten the sovereignty of the KRG, while the PUK supports the separate share of Sulaymaniyah and Halabja in the proposed budget.
The KDP and PUK are also in disagreement over the upcoming election in the Kurdistan region, specifically concerning the election law.
KDP politburo member Nawzad Hadi has voiced discontent over the amendments made to the KRG share in the Iraqi budget.
These amendments were made by certain Iraqi MPs from Shia parties.
Speaking to VOA Kurdish, Hadi stated that discussions about the KRG's share in the Iraqi budget should be held within the State Administration Coalition. This coalition consists of the main Shia groups that formed the Iraqi government. Hadi noted that prior agreements on power sharing, balance, and mutual understanding had been reached with the coalition. He now believes the Shia coalition is currently discussing the amendments to reach a consensus.
The tensions in Baghdad seem to extend beyond the KRG (specifically the KDP) and the Shia groups. Hadi highlighted that the Shia parties, with whom they had agreed on government formation, have altered the budget law without further discussions. They plan to present a new amendment to the Iraqi parliament for voting. These changes came as a surprise to the KDP, considering their existing agreement with the Iraqi government, as clarified by Hadi.
On the flip side, Saad Mutalibi, a leader from Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition, stated that the KRG's share in the Iraqi budget has sparked issues within the Iraqi parliament. This is because the Iraqi government did not provide the text of their agreement with the KRG.
In an exclusive interview with Shafaq News, US Ambassador Alina Romanowski expressed her country's unwavering support for the forthcoming parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan Region, stating that "regular, free, and fair elections confer legitimacy and the consent of the governed."
This comes amidst rising tensions between the KDP and PUK that potentially jeopardize the delayed November elections. "The IKR cannot create this more prosperous society without better cooperation between the major political parties there," urged Romanowski, calling for unity between the KDP and PUK.
Despite a breakthrough in May, facilitated by US diplomacy, the rival parties have yet to reach a consensus. They failed to agree on the election law, leading to further disputes over the Iraqi budget bill and security matters.
In the interview, Romanowski depicted a vision of a "strong, resilient, prosperous" Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) as a vital part of a federal Iraq. She believes this image could bolster regional stability, enhance security, and improve living standards for local residents. Shafaq News has stated that the full interview will be published later today.
Shafaq News/ The United States backs the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) in its pursuit for conducting a parliamentary election as soon as possible despite the ongoing political complications, Ambassador
US Encourages IKR to Hold Elections Amid Political Tensions: Ambassador Romanowski - Shafaq News
6. June 2023 13:47
Iranian Kurdish leader Mohtadi says Tehran's pressure is a distraction from protests
Abdullah Mohtadi, leader of Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, has claimed that Tehran's heightened pressure on Iranian Kurdish rebel groups, based in the Kurdistan Region, serves as a distraction from anti-government protests. In a conversation with Stephen Sackur on the BBC's HARDTalk, Mohtadi suggested that Tehran's actions are nothing new.
Mohtadi revealed that the KRG has asked Komala and other Iranian Kurdish opposition groups to moderate their activities and abstain from armed conflicts with Tehran. These directives followed protests sparked by the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini last year, leading to accusations from Iranian authorities that Kurdish opposition parties incited these demonstrations.
Iran's government has since ramped up pressure on the Kurdistan Region, accusing the KRG of facilitating weapon smuggling into Iran on behalf of Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups. The KRG denies these accusations, and Kurdish opposition parties consistently assert their policy of non-aggression towards Iran.
We have not engaged in any armed struggle or sent armed teams into Iran.
In response to rumors of a possible agreement between KRG and Tehran to oust Komala and other Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Region, Mohtadi stressed that his party refrains from any armed conflict with Tehran.
Recently, there have been unverified reports of a deadline imposed by Iranian authorities for the KRG to disarm Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. This threat of renewed attacks on these groups in northern Iraq comes amid a speculated military build-up near the Iraqi Kurdistan border.
Addressing the potential expulsion from the Kurdistan Region, Mohtadi stated: "This is not what we hear from the people in charge of the KRG." Instead, he said the KRG wanted assurances of non-aggression towards Iran, a condition that Mohtadi claims his party has upheld for over 25 years.
Mohtadi concluded by discussing his recent lobbying efforts for U.S. protection in Iraq, stating that the KRG lacks sufficient strength for their defense.
Stephen Sackur speaks to Abdullah Mohtadi, leader of the Iranian Kurdish movement Komala.
6. June 2023 13:38
Political infighting hampering Sinjar reconstruction – Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has today unveiled a report asserting that ongoing political discord is impeding the reconstruction of Sinjar district in northern Iraq. The district sustained significant damage during the conflict against ISIS and, despite the reported allocation of funds for reconstruction, remains largely in disarray.
Sarah Sanbar, Iraq researcher at HRW, pointed out, "Political infighting is preventing the utilization of available funds while the people of Sinjar remain in a state of uncertainty." The standstill has resulted in delayed critical infrastructure repair and provision of essential services to the inhabitants of the region.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the battle with ISIS between 2014 and 2017 led to the destruction of roughly 80 percent of public infrastructure and 70 percent of homes in Sinjar Town, the district's largest city. This has left the residents grappling with inconsistent access to electricity and water, with numerous health and education facilities still severely damaged or entirely destroyed.
The report shines a light on the political and infrastructural challenges facing Sinjar, a district disputed between the KRG and the federal government of Iraq. The administrative ambiguity has led to a situation where the mayor of Sinuni, in northern Sinjar, is currently serving as the acting mayor of Sinjar from Dohuk. This forces Sinjaris to travel to access administrative and civil documentation services.
The HRW report accentuates the pressing need for political collaboration and concrete action to ameliorate the situation in Sinjar. It serves as an urgent call to all stakeholders to prioritize the welfare of the people of Sinjar above political disputes.
The reconstruction of the Sinjar district in northern Iraq, which was heavily damaged in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), is being held up by a political dispute over its administration.
Human Rights Watch
6. June 2023 13:08
Member of Iraqi parliament finance committee voices uncertainty over budget bill amendments
Mustafa Al-Karawi, a member of the Iraqi Parliament's Finance Committee, has communicated uncertainty regarding proposed alterations in Articles 13 and 14 of the Iraqi budget bill, which is on the Parliamentary agenda for a vote tomorrow.
Speaking to Al-Sumaria news, Karawi expressed confusion on whether the version of the budget bill going to vote had been subject to amendments in the committee, or if it were an entirely distinct version.
Within the committee, Articles 13 and 14 were marked for a vote prior to the final Parliamentary vote. But Karawi has raised the alarm, saying, "We're unsure whether the amendments we implemented in the committee persist, or if there have been additional alterations."
The budget law for fiscal years 2023 through 2025 has stirred controversy, with this Parliamentarian arguing that certain procedural steps should have preceded the final vote. He doubts whether the changes should have been voted on within the Finance Committee prior to advancing to the Parliament session. He also expresses skepticism about the changes sailing through without any "political agreements."
This update comes against the backdrop of ongoing disagreements concerning the KRG share of the Iraqi budget, encapsulated in the contentious Articles 13 and 14 of the budget law.
Presently, the PUK and the KDP are immersed in discussions with other Iraqi political factions and the Parliamentary Finance Committee regarding the disputed sections of the proposed budget law.
Earlier, the PUK's team leader in the Iraqi Parliament asserted that the amendments to Articles 13 and 14, specifically pertaining to the Kurdish Region, do not threaten its constitutional autonomy. Conversely, the KDP has aired worries that the proposed budget law may infringe on the KRG's sovereignty by granting Iraq jurisdiction over border crossings.
In a veiled critique on Twitter, the KDP's KRG Prime Minister stated that the amendments "breach the agreement with al-Sudani's Government," suggesting that the KDP may exert pressure on the incumbent government in Baghdad if the amendments stand as they are.
السومرية نيوز – سياسة أبدت اللجنة المالية النيابية، اليوم الثلاثاء، موقفاً من تحديد مجلس النواب موعد التصويت على مشروع قانون الموازنة المالية، فيما أكدت أن الموازنة ستمرر وفق توافقات سياسية بعيدة عن المنطق.
قناه السومرية العراقية
6. June 2023 12:51
Friction between KDP and PUK escalates amid budget amendments and court rulings
Just under a month ago, the KRG Premier Masrour Barzani (KDP) had Deputy PM Qubad Talabani (PUK) over for "lunch." Barzani tweeted about their meeting, saying they discussed government issues in a constructive, open dialogue. Talabani echoed these sentiments on his Twitter, labeling the lunch as "pleasant and productive."
This meeting was set to kickstart a new era between KDP and PUK after seven months of PUK boycotting the KRG cabinet. Following this, the KDP and PUK political bureaus met in Sulaymaniyah on May 16.
But the renewed camaraderie didn't last. A week later, a brawl erupted in the Kurdistan Parliament between PUK and KDP members. Despite the PUK Speaker's efforts to suspend the meeting, KDP's Deputy Speaker, backed by the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan and minority groups, insisted on continuing.
This event sparked a cold war between KDP and PUK. The KDP used its institutions to legitimize their decisions in the Kurdistan Parliament meeting. On the other hand, PUK boycotted the Electoral Commission, which KDP was keen on reactivating.
The differing views over the Iraqi budget amendments and KRG's share added fuel to the fire. While KRG claimed the amendments were against the interests of the Kurdistan region, PUK MPs supported them, saying they didn't violate KRG's constitutional rights.
The tensions escalated when the Iraqi Federal Court termed the parliamentary term extension "illegal." The situation worsened when the Erbil court issued a death sentence in absentia to the head of PUK's Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) and its commanders. In response, PUK's Leader Bafel Jalal Talabani donned a CTG uniform to express solidarity with those convicted.
The KRG cabinet is slated to hold its regular weekly meeting tomorrow, and Qubad Talabani is expected to attend. But with the budget amendments looming, it appears KDP and PUK relations could further deteriorate.
6. June 2023 12:41
Oil export suspension impacts workers, causes spending cutbacks in Kurdistan Region
As pointed out by journalist Layal Shakir, the suspension of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region has taken a toll on those employed in the sector. The halt in operations has left most oil companies scaling back on spending due to the unclear timeline on when exports might resume. Norwegian oil and gas company DNO is one such example, announcing a reduction in spending in the Kurdistan Region, inclusive of drilling, due to the "uncertain timing of export resumption and, importantly, of payments by the Kurdistan Regional Government for previous oil sales."
Turkey halted the export of the region’s oil on March 25, following an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris. The decision favored the Iraqi government against Turkey, ordering Ankara to pay $1.5 billion as recompense for exporting the region’s oil from 2014-2018 without the consent of Baghdad.
The ongoing suspension of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region via Turkey has caused an estimated loss of around $2 billion. With the cessation now stretching beyond 72 days and no visible signs of the exports recommencing, it has inflicted a significant financial setback to both the KRG and the Iraqi government, totaling approximately $2 billion.
6. June 2023 12:22
Hawkar Jaff's brother asserts fair trial, openness to international court intervention
Mohammed Jaff, brother of the late Hawkar Jaff, spoke with NRT TV's Karzan Osman on the Tawtwe political interview show, underscoring his belief in the impartiality of the recent trial and the necessity to keep it separate from ongoing disputes between the KDP and the PUK.
On Sunday, the Erbil court issued an in absentia death sentence to Wahab Halabjay, head of PUK's Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG), two other senior CTG officials, and three PUK officers in relation to the 2022 murder of CTG official Hawkar Jaff in Erbil. This ruling has stirred up tensions between the KDP and PUK, hinting at a potential breakdown of their recent agreement from May.
In a phone call from Mosul, Mohammed Jaff asserted that due process was followed in the trial, adding that his family is prepared to escalate the case to an international court to circumvent political interference. Jaff stated that Karzan Mohammed Rashid, Head of Intelligence at PUK's CTG, threatened his brother's life. Rashid was among the six people found guilty in the ruling, which the PUK contends was politically driven.
Despite recent threats, Jaff remains resolute. While aware of the identities of those who threatened him, he refrains from disclosing them. He urged a review of the evidence against the convicted individuals, affirming, "if there are any errors in them, we take responsibility." Nevertheless, he rebuffed PUK's offers to reevaluate or launch a new investigation into the murder.
Although still members of the PUK, Jaff distanced himself from Bafel Talabani as the PUK leader. He asserted, "We are proud to be PUK members, but not of the new PUK, only the PUK of Lahur [Talabany]."
Jaff confirmed that his family would continue their pursuit of justice "because no terrorist organization has done what was done to him, burning him in front of his family." Hawkar Jaff, formerly associated with deposed PUK co-president Lahur Talabany, was assassinated on October 7, 2022, when a sticky bomb attached to his car exploded as he left his home in Erbil. The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC), under KDP control, implicated the PUK's CTG and Halabjay in the killing.
The PUK has rejected the verdict and dismissed the idea of surrendering the convicts.
6. June 2023 11:56
Leadership of NATO's Iraq mission transfers from Italy to Spain
NATO recently announced a change in command of its Iraq mission, with Italy handing over the reins to Spain on May 24 in Baghdad. Lieutenant General José Antonio Agüero Martínez of Spain has assumed the responsibility of leading NATO Mission Iraq.
In its statement, NATO proclaimed: "Tangible results have been achieved to create the conditions for lasting security in Iraq and stability across the region."
Back in April, forces from the anti-ISIS coalition indicated a drop in militant activities in Iraq and Syria this year. Major-General Matthew McFarlane, Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, shared: "Since the beginning of this year in Iraq – that’s from January 1st through the first week of April – we've recorded a 68 percent reduction in attacks compared to the same period last year."
BAGHDA - Lieutenant General José Antonio Agüero Martínez of Spain assumed command of NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at a Change of Command Ceremony at UNION ...
6. June 2023 11:15
Iraqi parliament gears up to vote on controversial budget bill
Tomorrow the Iraqi Parliament is set to initiate voting on a contentious budget proposal for the fiscal years 2023 through 2025, as confirmed by the Presidency of the Iraqi Parliament. The balloting will involve 67 articles of the bill, with amendments suggested by the Finance Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and Federal Service.
There have been whispers of advancement in the negotiations between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and other Iraqi factions over budget shares and articles 13 and 14, which directly impact the KRG. Yet, it remains to be seen if the disputes with the Finance Committee have reached a resolution.
The PUK and the KDP are currently in talks with other Iraqi political parties and the parliamentary finance committee about these divisive articles in the proposed budget law.
Interestingly, the PUK's team leader in the Iraqi Parliament recently asserted that alterations to Articles 13 and 14 of the budget bill, focusing specifically on the Kurdish Region, do not pose a threat to its constitutional autonomy.
However, the KDP expressed worries that the proposed budget law might infringe upon KRG's sovereignty by granting Iraq the power to supervise border crossings. KRG's Prime Minister from the KDP criticized the amendments subtly on Twitter, stating they "violate the agreement with [Iraqi PM] Al-Sudani's Government."
6. June 2023 10:57
Good morning everyone, and welcome to today's live blog. Let's look at some of the headlines we're tracking for you.
Following extended negotiations among the Finance Committee and various political factions, the Iraqi Parliament is set to hold a session on Thursday to vote on the national budget. While there's been reported progress concerning the budget share and articles 13 and 14 tied to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), it's still unclear whether the issues between the KRG and the Finance Committee have been fully resolved.
The political cold war between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) persists, with new developments in Hawkar Jaff's case. This week, a court in Erbil issued a death sentence in absentia for the Head of the PUK's Counter Terrorism Group (CTG) and several of its commanders. The PUK has denounced the court ruling, dismissing it as a political move. It seems that the PUK and KDP are entering yet another challenging period in their relationship, a situation not only due to Jaff's case but also disputes over the KRG's portion of the Iraq budget and the provinces' direct relationship with the Iraqi Federal Government.