Live: President set to sign budget bill into law

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Foreign consulates dismiss rumors of lobbying for LGBTQI+ advocacy

The US and French consulates have responded to a false media report suggesting they were lobbying for the registration of LGBTQI+ advocacy organizations in the Kurdistan Region. 

In a statement, the US Consulate General in Erbil said, "Though we support the fundamental human rights of all people, this media report is false."

Similarly, the official Twitter account of the Netherlands, responding to a Kurdish media outlet, stated: "Your source is lying. Invest in better sources or investigate yourself instead of just quoting anonymous people."

Kurdistan Watch, a Twitter account that deems itself a watchdog on Kurdistan's political elites, tweeted the reports this morning, only to be slapped down by the Dutch consulate.

They responded by doubling down, only to get dismissed again.
Even with the long-awaited agreement between the KRG and Baghdad, nationalistic rhetoric continues from KDP officials.

In a recent TV show on Kurdsat News, senior KDP member in Kirkuk, Kawa Ahmed, said: "It's better to eat our soil than wait [to be fed by] a foreigner's hand (Baghdad)."

Similarly, Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Party of Kurdistan, Mohammed Haji Mahmood, made dismissive comments about the importance of budget support from Baghdad in comparison to national pride.

Speaking on a Rudaw TV show, in response to a question about how Kurds should support themselves if they separate from Baghdad, Mahmood said, "May all Kurds die of hunger."
An armed confrontation between Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) resulted in the death of at least one IRGC member and the injury of two others, according to the Norway-based Hengaw Organization.

The IRGC confirmed the fatality, identifying the member as Rezgar Tabireh.

Both Hengaw and the IRGC reported that the conflict began on Friday evening in the mountainous region between the villages of Daratefi and Kani Sanan near Marivan. The clash continued until 11PM local time.

Tehran seems to be searching for further reasons to attack Iranian Kurdish opposition groups and demand the surrender of its members. The Iranian government continues to pressure these opposition parties and has been observed moving heavy weapons to its border with Kurdistan.

Recent unverified reports suggest an ultimatum issued by Iranian authorities for the KRG to disarm Iranian Kurdish opposition groups. Amidst rumors of a military buildup near the Iraqi Kurdistan border, these groups—including the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Organisation of Iranian Kurdistan Struggle (Khabat), The Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), and PJAK—are facing the prospect of new attacks in northern Iraq.
As we reported earlier today, the Iraqi budget awaits the President's signature. Moeen al-Kadhimi, a member of the finance committee in the Iraqi parliament, anticipates the law will be enacted in 15 days.

Al-Kadhimi expects that the President will sign the budget law within 5 to 10 days. He believes the law will have a transformative impact on Iraq's economic growth and service delivery.

The Iraqi parliament approved one of the most substantial budget bills since 2003 in the early hours of June 12, following more than four days of intense discussions and negotiations among political parties.

The budget not only lays out Iraq's financial plans for the next three years but also carries significant implications for the Kurdistan Region. Notably, for the first time since the advent of its independent energy policy, the KRG will lose much control over oil exports.

Al-Sudani pledges support for journalists

On Iraqi Press Day, Prime Minister Sudani has announced a package aimed at facilitating and supporting journalistic work.

The Prime Minister's Media Office revealed in a statement that Sudani has ordered all ministries, governorates, and government agencies to assist press and media professionals who hold official licenses from the Communications and Media Commission. This support is expected to eliminate barriers and provide essential backing, as required by law.

To improve the mobility of international journalists and the press, Sudani has directed relevant authorities to expedite the issuance of entry visas for journalists working with media offices and channels operating in Iraq. His instructions also include facilitating the transportation of professional equipment and simplifying residency procedures in Iraq, in accordance with Iraqi laws.

However, despite these assurances from Iraqi officials, Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists. A report published six months ago by Reporters Without Borders stated that Iraq and Syria were the deadliest countries for journalists, with a combined total of 578 journalists killed in the past 20 years. This figure accounts for more than a third of the global total.

Here is the full text of the statement in English by Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office:
Prime Minister Mohammed S. Al-Sudani has issued a set of mandatory measures and guidelines to support Iraqi journalists and media organizations in celebration of the 154th National Day of the Iraqi Press.

The Excellency has instructed all ministries, governorates, and government agencies to support press and media professionals with official licenses from the Communications and Media Commission, ensuring the removal of obstacles and providing the essential support, as mandated by the law.

The Prime Minister also has instructed the relevant authorities to offer subsidized Internet services to media institutions, and to review the financial transfers for media entities, including satellite channels and media offices. These actions aim to support the media profession in Iraq, in accordance with the Central Bank of Iraq law and regulations governing international money transfer.

In order to streamline the movement of licensed international press and media personnel, His Excellency has instructed all checkpoints across governorates to ensure compliance. This includes facilitating the issuance of entry visas for journalists working in media offices and channels operating in Iraq, facilitating transportation of their professional equipment as well as simplifying their residency procedures in Iraq, in accordance with the Foreigners' Residence Law No. (76) of 2017.

In line of his ongoing support, the Prime Minister has instructed measures to streamline social security paperwork for press personnel across media institutions. Additionally, he has called for a review of water and electricity fees levied on media channels and offices, along with electricity generator fuel charges.

Media Office of the Prime Minister
June 17, 2023
Shkour Hameed, a businessman from Kirkuk, alleges that a KDP security officer in Erbil extorted $1.8m from him and issued death threats. Hameed made these accusations during an interview with Kurdish media outlets.

He also alleges that his brother was coerced into buying an apartment and a car for this officer two years ago. Further, Hameed claims that under duress, they registered properties in the name of the KDP officer, asserting that they have evidence to substantiate their allegations.

However, Hameed has not revealed the officer's name, and neither the security forces nor the police have made any comments concerning these allegations.
The date for the Kurdistan Region's Parliamentary elections remains unclear, but the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is set to convene tomorrow to discuss the matter. Eimad Jameel, a commissioner in the IHEC, told Kurdistan 24 that the meeting's purpose is to decide on the supervision of the Kurdistan elections.

Two days ago, the Kurdistan Region President and the KRG Prime Minister met with the IHEC. Kurdish media speculated that a new date for the Kurdistan elections was discussed during this meeting. However, the President's statement suggested that the focus was on conducting the elections as soon as possible. He conveyed the KRG's readiness, along with all related parties, to ensure the success of the process.

Jameel elaborated that the only hindrance to holding the elections is the timing. The provincial elections in Iraq are scheduled for December 18, 2023, which is close to the proposed date for the Kurdistan elections in November. According to the IHEC, "it is impossible to hold the Kurdistan elections on its [proposed November] date."

The Iraqi IHEC is anticipated to form a committee to oversee the upcoming Kurdistan Elections. Officially, both the KDP and the PUK express support for the elections. However, the terms under which these should be conducted remain contentious.

The elections, initially due last November, are now tentatively rescheduled for this coming November.
Kurdistan Region's Interior Minister Reber Ahmed (KDP) shared his perspective on the political landscape, emphasizing the importance of elections in resolving party differences. He stated there is no alternative to polling public opinion, whether the elections occur this year or next. 

Commenting on the situation in Baghdad, he expressed cautious optimism for the future. He believes the new Prime Minister will be able to implement the political agreement and constitution.

Highlighting the KRG and KDP support for the Iraqi cabinet, the minister stressed the importance of unity: "If all partners support the [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Al-Sudani] in this position and at this specific time, I believe there is a good opportunity for success. But otherwise, we will repeat the same mistakes."

Addressing security concerns, the minister requested increased training and support from Washington for the Peshmarga. He emphasized that ISIS continues to pose a significant threat to Iraq and the Kurdistan region, revealing that there are plans for joint operations and brigades between Baghdad and Erbil.

The situation in Sinjar was also a topic of discussion. The minister claimed that the presence of the PKK poses a significant challenge to the implementation of the Sinjar agreement as they control many facilities in the district.

He also touched upon the challenges the Kurdistan Region is grappling with, including hosting approximately one million refugees and internally displaced persons from various regions and countries.

Furthermore, he mentioned infrastructural challenges, such as water floods during winter and a lack of water resources in the summer.

Watch the whole discussion below:
Criticism been sparked in the Kurdistan Region following a comment by KRG Minister of Interior Rebar Ahmed, concerning freedom of speech and political activities. Speaking at the United States Institute of Peace on June 14, Ahmed stated, "we don't have anyone in jail regarding their political views."

Various media and social media outlets quickly challenged the minister's claim, pointing to the cases of Sherwan Sherwani and other Badinan activists, who remain incarcerated allegedly due to their political views. The KRG, however, has previously asserted that these individuals were arrested due to their support for the PKK.

Kurdistan president set to join Iraqi delegation for oil resumption talks in Turkey – reports

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani is set to join the delegation headed to Turkey to negotiate the revival of KRG oil exports.

Barzani expressed his intent during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani in Baghdad, which coincided with Qatar's Thani's visit to Iraq, according to Kurdish news outlet Bwar.

During his meeting with Sudani, Barzani discussed the ongoing developments and talks between Turkey and Iraq.

Known for his robust ties with Erdogan, Barzani's participation is expected to bolster Iraq-Turkey relations and pave the way for the reestablishment of KRG oil exports to global markets.

Iraqi Deputy Oil Minister Bassem Al-Abadi divulged in an interview with Al-Sabah that a meeting between Baghdad and Ankara is scheduled for June 19. The objective of this meeting is to discuss methods to recommence the flow of crude oil through Ceyhan.
KRG struggling to publish full schedule for salary payments – reports
The KRG is adjusting its approach to paying salaries in response to its current 350 billion IQD deficit.

According to a source from the Finance Ministry speaking to Rudaw, the KRG won't be able to meet all employee salary payments by the end of the month unless it receives an additional 400 billion IQD from Baghdad.

Similar to the holiday season in many other cultures, Eid often puts additional strain on family budgets. The prospect of delayed salaries not being paid before Eid near the end of June could therefore be met with significant disquiet.

Typically, the KRG depends on a 400 billion IQD monthly transfer from Baghdad, supplemented by non-oil income generated from customs, taxes, and police operations.

However, due to the shortfall, the KRG is modifying its strategy: instead of releasing a comprehensive list of salary payments, it will make payments on a daily basis based on the amount collected from non-oil revenues. Each day, the KRG will announce the ministry whose salaries will be paid, rather than providing a full schedule in advance.

Negotiations are underway with Baghdad to secure an additional 400 billion IQD until the Iraqi budget is implemented and the KRG gets its share from Iraq.

Last month, Iraq sent 800 billion IQD, and the KRG raised 140 billion in non-oil income, which was enough to cover salaries. However, given the current situation, the KRG has decided to adapt its approach.

As per the latest data from the KRG Ministry of Finance, the government needs 940 billion IQD. But with the suspension of KRG oil exports via Turkey since March 25, the financial pressure is growing and is affecting salary payments. This situation is expected to continue until the Iraqi federal budget, which passed recently, is implemented.

Yesterday, Amanj Raheem, the KRG cabinet secretary, stated that the Iraqi government should send six months of payments to the Kurdistan Region after an accounting adjustment.

Once the Iraqi budget is implemented, the central government will allocate 906 billion IQD monthly for employee salaries, pensions, and Peshmerga forces, leaving the KRG with a manageable deficit of 6 billion IQD.

However, the durability of the agreement between the KRG and the Iraqi government is uncertain, as their agreements often dissolve within a few months, leading to mutual accusations of violating terms.

Gulf Keystone pivots amid Kurdistan export halt

In anticipation of their AGM, Gulf Keystone CEO John Harris announced, "Following the suspension of Kurdistan crude exports on 25 March 2023 and continued delays to oil sales payments, our focus has shifted to aggressively reducing all costs to preserve liquidity."

In the face of challenging times for oil companies, Gulf Keystone stated, "We are now exploring potential options to sell our crude to local buyers."

Regarding the suspension of KRG oil exports, the company mentioned, "while no timeline has been publicly announced, we continue to believe the suspension of exports will be temporary and that the KRG will resume more normalized payments." The company expressed optimism about the ongoing engagement between the KRG, Iraq, and Turkey.

Gulf Keystone indicated that the approval of the Iraqi Federal budget earlier this week "is a step in the right direction towards formal recognition of Kurdistan production by Iraq and potentially paves the way for monthly budget transfers from Iraq to the KRG."

As far as their operations are concerned, the company announced, "Production from the Shaikan Field remains shut-in following the suspension of exports and closure of the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline on 25 March 2023."

The company is still discussing with the KRG about the outstanding receivables from October 2022 to March 2023, which total $151 million net.

Lastly, the halt in oil exports from the Kurdistan Region in Turkey is set to be addressed. Iraqi Deputy Oil Minister Bassem Al-Abadi revealed in an interview with Al-Sabah that a meeting between Baghdad and Ankara has been arranged for June 19 to discuss ways to resume crude oil flow through the Ceyhan pipelines.

Both parties reportedly agree on the need to re-establish the export as quickly as possible.
Ahead of today’s 2023 Annual General Meeting (“AGM”), Gulf Keystone, a leading independent operator and producer in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, provides an operational and corporate update. Jon Harris, Gulf Keystone’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Gulf Keystone entered 2023 following a year of strong operational and financial performance and continued delivery against the Company’s disciplined strategy of investing in […]
Gulf Keystone Petroleum

Morning briefing

Good morning, everyone.

Here are the latest updates from Iraq and the Kurdistan Region:

  • Upcoming senior-level talks are scheduled for June 19 between representatives from Baghdad and Ankara. The key focus of these discussions will be the potential resumption of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region through the Ceyhan pipeline. Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani is expected to join the delegation to Turkey, as reported by a Kurdish media outlet. We'll continue to provide updates on this matter.
  • In a noteworthy visit to Baghdad, Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani has pledged to invest $5 billion USD across various sectors in Iraq. Iraq and Qatar have entered into a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint company for the construction and operation of oil tankers to transport crude oil and petroleum products. They've also signed an MoU to set up a 150,000 barrels per day oil refinery in Iraq. The US has expressed its support for this visit, and we will bring you more details as they emerge.
  • Lastly, the Iraqi budget has been submitted to the Iraqi President for approval. We will share further updates on how this budget may affect the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole.

Stay tuned for more!