Live: Ankara-Baghdad Talks On Kurdistan Region Oil Halt

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After several days of clashes between the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the opposition Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), the latter issued a formal statement condemning the IRGC's attacks on the Kosalan area, asserting that "war is not the sole solution to problems."

PKK-affiliated PJAK, in describing the situation in these areas of Kurdish cities within Iran, warned that "militarizing Eastern Kurdistan will exacerbate the crisis and worsen the Kurdish situation."

"The IRGC has systematically and intentionally destroyed the environment," it said.

One of the Eastern Kurdistan Units (YRK) commanders, Shyar Shavgar, spoke to PKK-affiliated Roj News, alleging that "Iran, Turkey, and Iraq have agreed to pressure Kurdish movements into disarmament." This could refer to the agreement between Iraq and Iran, signed in March, to secure their borders—widely perceived as a pact to confront Iranian-Kurdish opposition parties. A few weeks prior, Iraq and Iran had engaged in more in-depth discussions to explore practical steps towards disarming these opposition groups in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. These talks included KRG representatives, namely KDP's KRG Minister of Interior Rebar Ahmad and PUK's Head of Security Agency (Asayish) Hiwa Ahmad.

Expanding on the concept of joint operations by Turkey and Iran, this YRK commander asserted that "Iran and Turkey have decided to share intelligence. Iran will provide information on PJAK, and Turkey will base their attacks on this information."
Near Sulaymaniyah, on the eastern border of the Kurdistan Region, these clashes began following weeks of media reports on the transfer of military equipment by the IRGC and the Iranian army to border regions with the Kurdistan area. According to Iranian sources, the clashes have already caused casualties and there is a risk of further escalation.

Iran has displayed a hardline stance to persist with their operations. Mohammed Taghi Ousanlu, the commander of the Sayed al-Shouhada Headquarters of the IRGC, previously declared that their "operations aim for the permanent end of counter-revolutionary groups"—referring to the Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups—and vowed to continue these operations until "their last member remains."
Asayish said: Following an intensive investigation and surveillance, the security forces successfully carried out a targeted operation. Acting on a judge's orders, they managed to arrest three primary suspects and seize counterfeit money, along with all the counterfeiting paraphernalia. Additionally, two counterfeit gold molds and a piece of artifact were also confiscated during the operation.
Asayish said: Following an intensive investigation and surveillance, the security forces successfully carried out a targeted operation. Acting on a judge's orders, they managed to arrest three primary suspects and seize counterfeit money, along with all the counterfeiting paraphernalia. Additionally, two counterfeit gold molds and a piece of artifact were also confiscated during the operation.   credit: Erbil Asayish
Kurdistan Region's security forces (Asayish) are maintaining a two-day streak of arresting three suspects daily for alleged money counterfeiting—yesterday in Duhok and today in Erbil.

Three individuals were apprehended in Erbil on charges of money counterfeiting, as per a press statement from the local security forces.

Given that the Kurdistan Region predominantly operates on a cash-based economy, currency counterfeiting represents a significant concern. Reflecting the extent of this issue, back in 2018, over 100 individuals were accused of dealing with counterfeit currencies in Erbil alone.
(Interesting) insights from PUK-affiliated Bwar News Website: prospects for resumption of Kurdish oil exports look bleak as Baghdad Aaims for local consumption only

The report, published on Monday, says the meeting slated for 19 June (today) between the Iraqi and Turkish delegations, to discuss the resumption of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region, is unlikely to yield positive results due to Turkey's rigid stance on the issue.

It added that observers note that Turkey's political situation hasn't changed following recent elections, and Ankara remains intent on acquiring Kurdistan's crude oil at reduced prices. Unless Iraq concedes to forgo the compensation levied on Turkey by the Paris Court, there appears to be little hope for reinitiating oil production in the Region, and the odds of reaching an agreement seem slim.

We know that Turkey is negotiating for a better deal but the details of such deal are unlcear. 

The report goes on to say that signs suggest that the Iraqi government plans to utilize the Kurdistan Region's crude oil exclusively for domestic consumption, and not for export, following the approval of the federal budget.

If only transforming words into action was a simple task - we would have a Kurdistan Region akin to, let's just say Holland, in no time.
One might wonder if the KRG Finance Ministry has been reading our morning briefing. A few hours ago, they issued an incomplete schedule for paying public servants. Now, some civil servants have a clear idea of when they'll receive their pay, while others are left in the dark. Some Peshmerga members (specifically those in PUK's Unit 60 and KDP's Unit 80), the finance ministry itself, and the Interior Ministry are set to start receiving their salaries for May from Wednesday. The remaining employees must wait and see when their turn comes around.
KRG Prime Minister, Masrour Barzani, is set to visit Ankara tomorrow to discuss matters relating to KRG oil and regional security issues, according to a report by NGO-funded Draw media.

Accompanied by a delegation comprising of Kamal Mohammed, the acting Minister of Natural Resources, and former KRG Representative to Baghdad, Dr. Mohammed Ehsan, the visit comes at a time when talks are already in progress in the Iraqi capital between representatives from Baghdad and Ankara. Representatives from the KRG are also said to be participating in these discussions. The main focus of these talks is to explore the possibility of resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region through the Ceyhan pipeline.

The primary agenda of the PM's visit will be the resumption of KRG oil exports and addressing security concerns in the region.

PM's office has not issued a statement in this regard.

KRG oil exports were halted on March 25, following a ruling by a Paris-based arbitration court. The court found that Turkey had violated a 1973 agreement with Iraq by exporting resources from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region without Baghdad's consent between 2014 and 2018. As reported by Rudaw, this cessation of oil exports has resulted in Iraq suffering a significant financial loss exceeding $2.5 billion.

The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has begun registering political parties and coalitions for the upcoming provisional council elections. In a statement released today, the IHEC announced that the registration period will span from July 1st to July 30th.

Recently, Iraqi media outlets highlighted a dispute within the governing Iraqi Coordination Framework regarding the timing of the provisional council elections. Some parties within the Framework advocated for persuading Sadr to participate in the elections, leading to calls for a postponement of the scheduled elections on November 8th. However, Sadr confirmed today that they will partake in the provisional council elections.

The IHEC is progressing with its preparations for the Iraqi elections. Just two days ago, the commission invited citizens to visit its offices to update their information for the biometric registration.

If the IHEC continues its preparations for the Iraqi elections, it could be difficult for the commission to supervise the Kurdistan Parliamentary elections this year. Members of the IHEC have previously confirmed this and suggested they would need six to seven months to prepare for the Kurdistan elections. They have requested an official letter from the President of the Kurdistan Region to initiate this process.

The number of voters eligible for the Iraqi provisional council elections stands at 28 million, including citizens born in 2004 and 2005.
The Communist Party of Kurdistan – Iraq (Communist Party) claims that some political entities refuse to adhere to the Iraqi Supreme Court's ruling on dissolving the Kurdistan Region Parliament and are planning to bypass Baghdad's authority in holding the elections and drafting a constitution for the Region.
The newspaper of the Communist Party, Regay Kurdistan, says in an article that various political parties and parliamentary factions in Erbil are negotiating to present a unified stance against the Iraqi Federal Court. They intend to initiate a process of elections and draft a constitution for the Kurdistan Region, without reverting to Baghdad.

The Communist Party (with one seat in the dissolved legislature) is known for aligning with the KDP, providing them support during critical times. However, their newspaper did not specify which political parties are partaking in this process. Meanwhile, the Change Movement-affiliated Zaman Press website and other Kurdish media outlets previously noted that the KDP continues their activities in the Kurdistan election Commission.

The PUK, the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Kurdistan Justice Party (Komal), on the other hand, have boycotted their involvement in the works of the commission, claiming that its term has expired.

The Commission currently lacks a mandate as it needs to be reactivated by parliament and two of its positions filled.
Regay Kurdistan suggests the Kurdistan Region President can establish a special committee comprising representatives from all political parties and entities in the Region. This special committee would be empowered to prepare a law for the Kurdistan elections, establish a commission for supervising the elections, and draft a constitution for the Kurdistan Region and putting it up for a vote.

Drawing a parallel to a similar agreement from 1992, when political parties reached a consensus on election procedures and formed a committee, the newspaper suggests that a similar approach could be viable today.

These propositions however, appear far-fetched, given the profound disagreements between the KDP and PUK at present. Moreover, the current context of the Kurdistan Region, which now holds a formal status within the Iraqi state, significantly complicates matters. The fact that oil revenues are now controlled by Baghdad further underscores the substantial changes in the Region's status and the complex challenges facing these political maneuvers.

ڕێگای کوردستانبەگوێرەی ئەو زانیارییانەی دەست ڕێگای کوردستان کەوتووە، فراکسیۆنە جیاجیاکانی پەرلەمانی کوردستان و حزبە سیاسییەکانی هەرێمی کوردستان، لە گفتوگۆی بەردەوامدان، بۆ ئەوەی پێش کۆتایی ئەم مانگە، بە هەڵوێستێکی هاوبەش بگەن بۆ بڕیاریی کۆتایی لە بەرانبەر بڕیاری دادگەی فیدڕاڵی عێراق بە هەڵوەشاندنەوەی پەرلەمانی کوردستان.ئەم هەڵوێستەی هەرێمی کوردستان لەوێوە سەرچاوە دەگرێت، کە خواستێک هەیە بۆ زیاتر لاوازکردنی هەرێمی کوردستان و هێشتنەوەی لە بۆشایی یاساییدا، بەتایبەت کە کۆمسیۆنی باڵای سەربەخۆی هەڵبژاردنەکانی عێراق ئامادەیی...

Sadr to take part in provincial elections

A high-ranking leader in the Sadrist Movement disclosed on Monday that the Sadrists are set to participate in the upcoming provincial elections, marking their first political move since the group's leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, announced his withdrawal from politics last year.

Privately-owned Shafaq News website cited an unnamed Sadrist official as saying "the leadership of the Sadrist movement decided to participate in the provincial council elections, and the electoral bodies of the movement in Baghdad and the cities of the center and south have started operating covertly to complete the necessary technical and logistical arrangements."

The Sadrist movement, known for its broad popular base and influential political role in Iraq, plans to run in the elections using three separate electoral lists. The tripartite division comprises a list for the capital city, Baghdad, another for the cities of the south, and a third for the central cities.

In the 2021 elections, Sadr's bloc won the highest number of seats (73) compared to any other bloc. However, due to deadlocks in the government formation process, they chose to boycott the government, and Sadr decided to permanently retreat from politics.

The decision by the Sadrists to re-engage politically after their earlier withdrawal is likely to have significant ramifications on the Iraqi political scene.

شفق نيوز/ كشف قيادي بارز في التيار الصدري، اليوم الاثنين، عن مشاركة الصدريين في انتخابات مجالس المحافظات المزمع إجراؤها نهاية العام الحالي.ويأتي هذا الإجراء في أول تحرك سياسي بعد قرار زعيم التيار مقتد
حصري.. التيار الصدري يقرر خوض انتخابات مجالس المحافظات بثلاث قوائم - شفق نيوز
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf meets with the KRG's Interior Minister Rebar Ahmed in Washington, reaffirming that Erbil continues to play a crucial role in U.S. relations with Iraq.
Masrour Barzani, the KRG PM, says that he won't allow internal disputes to be exploited for making "unconstitutional and irresponsible requests." He is presumably referring to KDP-PUK conflicts and the latter's efforts to secure funding directly from Baghdad during disputes, thereby bypassing and undermining the KRG's central authority in the Kurdistan Region.

This marks Barzani's second statement on the matter since the approval of the federal budget. KDP officials issued strong statements criticizing the "traitors" in Baghdad for allowing such budgetary provisions to pass. Conversely, the PUK celebrated the accomplishment, boasting that Sulaymaniyah will no longer be marginalized by the KDP-led KRG – a claim vehemently denied by the KDP.

Barzani's comment was made during a meeting with the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Iraq, Hans Sandee.

Barzani also reiterated another KDP demand: the elections must be held "as soon as possible." However, due to ongoing KDP-PUK tensions, it appears increasingly unlikely that the elections will be held as scheduled in November (having already been postponed from last year).

Barzani reaffirmed the importance of abiding by the Iraqi constitution in terms of relations between Baghdad and the KRG, stressing that respecting the constitution and mutual agreements ensures security and stability for Iraq. Nevertheless, Iraqi political parties and the Central Government often criticize the KRG using the same "constitution" argument, highlighting that interpreting the Iraqi constitution can be challenging.


US diplomat calls for holding Kurdistan Region elections

US ambassadro and consula general holds meeting with local journalists in Erbil on 11 June.
US ambassadro and consula general holds meeting with local journalists in Erbil on 11 June.   credit: US Consulate
Pressure is mounting from foreign representatives in the Kurdistan Region, urging KRG officials to ensure the November parliamentary elections take place. The US Consul General in Erbil has stated that their focus is directed towards the conduct of these elections in the Kurdistan Region.

NRT Kurdish reports that during his participation in a trade event in Erbil, Irvin Hicks Jr. indicated that they are dedicating sufficient time to focus on the elections, as they have a direct impact on the stability of the region and its citizens, both now and in the future.

Following months of dispute and strife, the PUK and KDP entered a brief period of normalization last month. However, it was short-lived as they quickly fell back into conflict over the Iraqi budget and the holding of elections.

The US Consul General indicated that they are closely monitoring the political situation and tensions in the region, especially those related to internal issues between political parties, relations with Baghdad, and the Iraqi budget.

About two weeks ago, in her meeting with KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski called for the IKR parliamentary elections to be held "as soon as possible."

Currently, there are legal and political challenges to holding the elections: on one hand, the Kurdistan Parliament has been dissolved by a recent federal court ruling that annulled all laws issued by the legislature in the last several months, including one on reactivating the regional election commission. On the other hand, the KDP and PUK are at odds over the election details.

The Kurdistan Region Presidency now has the authority to call for elections, which would be run by the federal electoral commission. Talks between the KRI president and IHEC have already taken place regarding the details.


Oil shall not flow

Not that anyone was expecting oil exports to resume via Turkey today, Reuters cites an Iraqi oil official saying, "We are discussing all technical aspects regarding the restarting of oil exports. A decision to resume flows will not happen today, and further meetings are expected."

Today's meeting in Baghdad involves a Turkish energy technical delegation and Iraqi oil officials.

A decision to restart the oil flow requires higher-level political discussions. The issues blocking the resumption of oil exports are more political than technical," said a second oil official.

Iraqi Oil Official

Morning Briefing

Here's what we have in store for you today:

  • Today, high-stakes, high-level talks are underway in the Iraqi capital between representatives from Baghdad and Ankara. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representatives are said to be present too. The main focus of the talks is the possibility of resuming oil exports from the Kurdistan Region through the Ceyhan pipeline. These discussions come against the backdrop of Iraq suffering a significant loss of over $2.5 billion due to halted oil production.
  • International pressure is mounting on the Kurdistan Region to proceed with its parliamentary elections scheduled for November. Irvin Hicks Jr., the US Consul General in Erbil, has reiterated the importance of these elections for the current and future state of the Region and its citizens. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Independent Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) has commenced the registration of political parties and coalitions for the upcoming Iraqi Provisional elections.
  • The KRG is currently facing challenges in paying the salaries of its civil servants (not a surprising piece of news as this happens regularly), as only the Health Ministry has received their May salaries. Employees in other ministries are eagerly awaiting updates from the Ministry of Finance. Reports suggest that the KRG is considering borrowing an additional 400 billion IQD ($306 million) from Baghdad to fulfil its salary obligations, as it currently faces a deficit of 350 billion IQD ($267 million).