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11. October 2023 19:02
Here is a summary of PM Sudani’s speech during the Russian Energy Week in Moscow
The media office of the PM said that the Iraqi government has outlined a comprehensive energy strategy aimed at tackling a range of challenges and opportunities in the sectors of electricity, oil, petrochemicals, and gas.
Key points from the speech include:
Cooperation in the energy sector is crucial for addressing the various challenges in electricity, oil, petrochemical, and gas industries. Such collaboration is particularly important given the increasing global demand for energy.
Diversification of energy sources is a priority for Iraq to lessen economic dependence on oil.
The government is aligning its policies with global trends in energy transition, which include a focus on carbon-saving and energy efficiency projects. In accordance with targets to reduce carbon emissions by 2045, carbon-saving projects in the eastern part of Baghdad, financed through carbon bonds, are slated for completion. This underscores the government's commitment to both sustainable energy and climate action.
Efforts to improve energy efficiency are ongoing, and the focus extends beyond just mitigating the effects of oil spills to preventing such spills in the first place. This is particularly vital as oil competes with cleaner forms of energy, like those that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Additionally, certain areas of Iraq are becoming increasingly important for renewable energy, thanks in part to the additional hours of solar generation. This aligns with the overarching goal to meet local electricity demands primarily through renewable resources.
Advancements in archaeological excavation techniques are continually being made, with a strong emphasis on environmental preservation in these areas.
In terms of gas investment, the government is acting in accordance with the significant global demand for gas, which often outpaces existing contracts.
A pressing issue exists in Iraq where discovered oil often results in unutilized gas that is simply flared off, leading to waste and environmental degradation. This issue is exacerbated by missed opportunities, a growing need for electricity, and Iraq's hesitancy to import gas.
We have initiated and are continuing the Road to Development project, which encompasses a set of positive economic goals for the medium and long term. Efforts are underway to forge a suitable and promising practical relationship between the countries of the region and the global community through this Road to Development project.
The KRG Cabinet has also addressed issues surrounding the resumption of oil exports from the KRI, with Acting Minister of Natural Resources, Kamal Muhammed, presenting a report to the cabinet members.
The KRG statement said that the report covered the latest updates on efforts to resume oil exports via the Ceyhan port, recent developments between Iraq and Turkey, and preparations made by the region and oil companies.
Muhammed also “emphasized that the Kurdistan Region has upheld its commitment to supply the Federal Ministry of Oil with the daily oil amount needed for domestic consumption, doing so without asking the federal government to bear the costs of production and transportation. This act is viewed as a sign of the region's goodwill,” the statement said.
“Furthermore, the Kurdistan Region underscored the necessity of an agreement on costs among the Federal Ministry of Oil, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and oil-producing companies for the successful resumption of exports. It was noted that the suspension of oil exports since March 25 has led to substantial financial losses for both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.”
11. October 2023 18:39
The Kurdistan Region Presidency says KRI election date is steadfast
Following comments by the Unami chief urging all KRI political parties to ensure the new election date "will not again fall victim to internal political strife," KRI presidency spokesperson Dilshad Shahab reaffirmed the decision to hold the elections in February.
Shahab emphasized that the date was determined after extensive consultations with all political parties in the Kurdistan Region, adding that "there is no doubt" the elections will proceed as scheduled.
Earlier today, Bafel Talabani, the newly elected leader of the PUK, expressed the party's desire for the elections to be held "as soon as possible." Talabani's comments suggest the party's confidence in retaining its voter base, despite doubts and boycotts from many PUK members.
Furthermore, a spokesperson for the KRG confirmed on Wednesday that the Iraqi election commission has already begun preparations for the upcoming elections in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
11. October 2023 18:19
KRG cabinet discuss public sector salaries, oil export
The KRG says that it is fully cooperating with federal authorities regarding data on the KRI's public sector employees and expects Baghdad to disburse their salaries. The comments was made in a press release following this week's regular cabinet meeting in Erbil.
The statement also noted that the cabinet discussed the resumption of oil exports from the KRI, emphasizing that Erbil has fulfilled all its obligations to ensure the resumption of oil exports through the port of Ceyhan.
Here is the translated excerpts from the statement on salaries:
The meeting also addressed the coordination among the ministries and institutions of the KRG. It was noted that all required information [on public sector employees] has been provided to the [Baghdad-Erbil] joint committee, fulfilling the KRG's obligations in this regard. From now on, it is the federal government's obligation to disburse the salaries of [Kurdistan] Region employees through the KRG's official institutions as a financial entitlement. This process should not be influenced by political conflicts or issues. Since all citizens of the Federal Republic of Iraq, including those in the Kurdistan Region, are equal before the law, there should be no discrimination in the payment of salaries to employees under any pretext.
The Prime Minister emphasized that the KRG has already submitted all required data and information about its public sector employees in a clear and transparent manner. This information has been recorded in an advanced biometric electronic system and has been provided to the relevant authorities within the federal government.
The KRG continues to coordinate its efforts within the boundaries set by the constitution and in line with the financial requirements of the federal system. The KRG considers fulfilling these obligations a constitutional and legal priority.
In turn, it is the federal government's responsibility to meet its own constitutional duties, especially since complete information on the number of public sector employees, their salary amounts, and relevant laws and regulations has been provided.
Furthermore, the federal budget has allocated the necessary funds for the public sector employees of the region, eliminating any reason to withhold these entitlements. Notably, oil sales and exports, [or the lack thereof], cannot be used as a justification to halt the KRI's financial entitlements.
Therefore, public sector employees in the Kurdistan Region should receive their monthly salaries without any hindrances or obstacles, just like public sector employees in other Iraqi provinces. This should be done through the official institutions of the KRG.
The Unami chief says “more and urgent work” is needed on the issue of the KRI public sector salaries and pensions but describes the recent developments in Erbil-Baghdad relations as positive but she adds that more needs to be done.
She said “civil servant salaries should be shielded from political disagreements. Like any other Iraqi civil servant, those working in the Kurdistan Region have families to look after and obligations to fulfil.”
Here what else she said
“To discuss the Kurdistan Region’s financial challenges, a high-level delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government, headed by its Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, visited Baghdad on 14 September.
"Soon after, Iraq’s Council of Ministers agreed to provide financial relief in the form of ‘loans’ for the next three months. This enables the KRG to pay, for the time being, the salaries of its public servants.
"A positive development, and frankly speaking, it was overdue. That said, the agreement is temporary in nature and therefore not enough. Hence, more and urgent work lies ahead so as to avoid a new period of uncertainty for the Region’s public servants.
"Now, I said this in past years and will repeat it now: civil servant salaries should be shielded from political disagreements. Like any other Iraqi civil servant, those working in the Kurdistan Region have families to look after and obligations to fulfil.
"In August 2020, I highlighted in my briefing to the Council that the lack of specificity in Iraq’s 2005 Constitution continued to shape the debate between Baghdad and Erbil.
"With the situation persisting today, what does this mean?
It means that 18 years have gone by without an agreement on the gradual enhancement of the federal system; 18 years without a sustainable framework for natural resource distribution or disputed territories; 18 years without laws delineating rights and obligations. Instead, we continue to witness constant ad hoc crisis management.
"So, what I am essentially saying is that, 18 years on from the Constitution’s adoption, it is imperative to move to comprehensive and solid solutions."
11. October 2023 15:15
Here is what the Unami chief said on Iraq at the Security Council meeting on Tuesday
On the Kurdistan Region's parliamentary elections, UN Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said that “we expect all parties to ensure that this new election date will not again fall victim to internal political strife. With the current administration in a caretaker capacity, the Region’s democratic process must prevail. There is so much at stake.”
President and U.S. State Department official discuss Erbil-Baghdad relations
Nechirvan Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, met with Victoria Taylor, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran, in Erbil. Barzani reiterated the importance of a robust federal system in Iraq, a sentiment he also voiced in his appearance at the Meri Forum 2023 yesterday evening.
This meeting is significant, given Erbil's diminishing clout and the Kurdistan Region's shift away from pursuing de facto independence. Barzani's earlier initiatives, particularly the development of the Kurdistan Region's oil and gas industries, aimed at financial autonomy. However, recent challenges, including internal disputes and public grievances over delayed salaries and inadequate services, appear to have redirected his focus to fortifying ties with Baghdad.
Statement translated from Kurdish
"Today, President Nechirvan Barzani welcomed a U.S. State Department delegation, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Victoria Taylor, in Erbil. The dialogue centered on recent security and political updates in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. Both parties explored avenues for resolving Erbil-Baghdad issues.
President Barzani emphasized that Iraq's stability rests on an effectively implemented federal system, a viewpoint shared by the visiting delegation. The U.S. team reaffirmed their support for both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and expressed enthusiasm about promoting U.S. investments in these regions. Strengthening U.S.-Iraq and U.S.-Kurdistan Region relations was also a primary focus of the meeting."
11. October 2023 14:41
The agenda for the KRG cabinet today includes
Auditing the number of salaried employees in the Kurdistan Region
The latest steps and progress made in this audit are noteworthy. It's being conducted by a joint team from the Federal Financial Supervision Bureau and the Kurdistan Region. This audit remains a major sticking point between Erbil and Baghdad and has delayed the implementation of the Federal Budget Law. Consequently, Erbil has not received its budget share, leading to disruptions in salary disbursements to public sector employees in the KRI.
Resumption of oil exports from the Kurdistan Region via the port of Ceyhan
The meeting will delve into the latest developments regarding this matter between Iraq and Turkey. The KRI President mentioned yesterday that the ball is now in Baghdad's court as it reevaluates its proposal to the International Oil Companies (IOCs). Baghdad has proposed compensation to the IOCs for oil production that falls short of their expectations. Several IOCs have declined to restart production unless there are changes to this proposal.
There'll also be a report on the status of various minority communities in the Kurdistan Region.
Talabani stated that the PUK maintains favorable relations with both Tehran and Washington and seeks to enhance its relations with all parties.
On Peshmerga reform
In light of the US-led coalition pressing for changes and the unification of KDP-PUK-affiliated forces, Talabani mentioned that the PUK has consolidated its security forces and is diligently working to restructure its Force 70. However, he acknowledged the current stalemate arises from their inability to appoint a Peshmerga minister.
On PUK-Ankara relations
Talabani highlighted that the PUK's current relationship with Ankara is quite challenging. He lamented that Ankara has "martyred three anti-IS heroes, three of my personal friends, in Arbat without any justification." He further stated that the primary contention between Turkey and the PUK stems from a difference in perspective regarding the situation in North-eastern Syria. Talabani emphasized that the PUK has no affiliations with the PKK and cannot close offices [upon Ankara's request] of political entities that possess licenses from Iraqi authorities. In his view, the only viable resolution is dialogue rather than pressure. "When I wake up in the morning, I often see a [Turkish] drone hovering above. Sometimes, I even wave at them," he remarked.
11. October 2023 13:58
On Erbil-Baghdad relations
Talabani stated that the PUK currently holds more influence in Baghdad than in the past, a result of its honesty-driven policy. He emphasized the necessity for unity among Kurdish political parties to enhance the outcomes for the Kurdistan Region. This is why he aims to "reset" relations with other political entities.
When Ala'Aldeen inquired about the PUK's efforts to foster relations with Shia parties, especially within the Coordination Framework, Talabani confirmed that the PUK maintains relations with all Iraqi parties but chose not to divulge more specifics.
Regarding the proposal to allow the PUK-controlled Sulaymaniyah province to receive direct salary payments from Baghdad, Talabani remarked, “We must avoid shortsightedness. Suppose we receive salaries today, but another group doesn't – then what? The overarching concern should be the unity and integrity of the Kurdistan Region. Collaborative efforts are vital."
The PUK played a pivotal role in advocating a clause in the Iraqi Federal Budget Law. This clause dictates that if conflicts arise between a province and the KRG, the province can directly obtain payments from Baghdad. Additionally, PUK MPs recently supported an appeal urging the Iraqi government to directly pay Kurdistan Region public sector salaries and pensions.
Talabani concluded, “The last thing the PUK desires is a dual-administration system. However, we advocate for an administration that governs the Kurdistan Region equitably.”
11. October 2023 13:25
Here is what PUK leader Bafel Talabani said on the Kurdistan Region during today’s one-on-one with Meri’s founding president Dlawer Ala'Aldeen
Bafel Talabani spoke about the Kurdistan Region during a one-on-one with Meri’s founding president, Dlawer Ala'Aldeen.
Talabani intends to open a new page with all other KRI political parties. To this end, the PUK is sending a delegation to visit all the political parties. Talabani hopes this gesture will be received positively.
The relationship between KDP and PUK is strained, especially as the KRI grapples with challenges like failing to pay its public sector, losing control over oil and non-oil revenues, and facing frequent military attacks from neighboring countries like Turkey and Iran.
Talabani commented on the PUK’s leadership, noting a balanced mix of new and old members. These members actively participated in the meeting in Baghdad with Iraqi officials.
He says all bylaws were discussed in detail during conference and by thousands of PUK cadres more widely. And that there was ample room for discussion.
Emphasizing the rule of law, Talabani criticized the KDP for its interference in the courts of the Kurdistan Region. However, it's noteworthy that the PUK has been accused of similar interference, especially in the Sulaymaniyah region.
Talabani expressed his intention to enhance the freedom of expression environment in the Sulaymaniyah region by reeling off another anecdote about a caricaturist being promised protected by the subject of his satire: the PUK's late leader Jalal Talabani. While targeting KDP’s weak points might work for the PUK, the PUK’s own security forces have been blamed for violations against journalists and activists, albeit not as frequently as the KDP’s forces.
Talabani says he wishes to adopt a meritocracy within the PUK. He relayed an anecdote about asking a group of officials what the Kurdish term for meritocracy is and being told there isn't one.
Addressing the topic of power consolidation raised by Ala'Aldeen, Talabani highlighted the role of the newly formed Support Council. Comprising about 100 members, this council oversees the party's operations and is as significant as the 60-member Leadership Council. This council forms committees and operates similarly to a mini-parliament.
Talabani emphasized the importance of the upcoming elections, believing they are crucial for refreshing the parliament and the government. He asserted that the KRG should prioritize serving the people instead of being a mere political tool.
11. October 2023 13:11
Private companies to face banking mandate from next year
The KRG has officially launched its My Account initiative to open bank accounts for "1M+ public sector beneficiaries" in the Kurdistan Region.
The snazzy new website says: "Over the course of 18 months, government units will start transitioning, unit by unit, into the new payroll system according to a predefined schedule. Once enrolled, the employees will start receiving their salaries via private banks and can withdraw cash from a wide network of ATMs across Kurdistan."
PM Masrour Barzani visited Erbil Police to check up on implementation for the initiative that the KRG promises will boost efficiency and transparency, all while rooting out corruption that stems from a cash-based system. The PM has an ambitious target of onboarding all public sector employees and recipients of pensions or benefits within two years. Given how few people even have private bank accounts, that would mark a major success if achieved.
11. October 2023 11:39
Lavrov and Hussein meet in Moscow
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed the war in the Israel and the Gaza strip alongside border security between Iraq and Syria.
Here is the translated statement from the Iraqi FM’s press office:
On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fouad Hussein, met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, at the Russian Foreign Ministry's headquarters in Moscow. The meeting focused on various topics of mutual interest, including the enhancement of bilateral relations between Iraq and Russia.
Additionally, the officials discussed regional matters, with particular emphasis on recent developments in the Gaza Strip and their implications for the wider region. They noted the importance of collaborative efforts to seek just resolutions to the Palestinian issue. The conversation also extended to the situation in Syria, its influence on Iraq, and the need for cooperation to secure the Iraq-Syria border.
Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Special Envoy of the Russian President to the Middle East and Africa, also participated in the meeting.
As the second day of the Iraqi PM’s inaugural visit to Moscow gets underway, it's noteworthy that he is participating in the Russian Energy Week which commences today in Moscow.
The PM has already held a meeting with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, focusing on energy cooperation. A subsequent meeting is anticipated today. Following their initial discussions, Putin remarked, “The energy sector is undeniably the primary facet of our collaboration. Our top companies are operating efficiently in your nation. Our firms have committed around $19 billion, and our already fruitful cooperation in this sector is set to grow. We are harmonizing our efforts within the Opec+ framework, aiming to stabilize global market conditions. Overall, we've had great success, and I'm optimistic about our continued partnership in the future.”
Opec, combined with Russia and its allies, are termed Opec+. Oil and gas sales are a huge chunk of Russia’s economy, contributing to nearly a third of Russia's state budget. Meanwhile, Iraq stands as Opec's second-largest oil contributor, following Saudi Arabia.
Given the economic constraints placed on Russia by the U.S. and EU due to its Ukrainian invasion, Russia's natural gas clientele in the West has dwindled. While seeking alternative clients, potential sanctions loom if Iraq engages with sanctioned entities or individuals.
In further comments, Putin added, “We have numerous bilateral goals, and each will receive our full attention. Tomorrow, we are scheduled for a plenary session at the Russian Energy Week—a prestigious global energy event where experts and professionals gather to discuss both current events and future projections.”
As covered on Tuesday, PM Sudani echoed Putin’s sentiments, emphasizing the role of Russian energy enterprises. He stated, “It is crucial for Iraq and Russia to maintain bilateral coordination, especially within the Opec+ framework. This coordination should consider supply-demand dynamics and cater to the interests of investors, producers, and consumers. During our meeting today, and tomorrow as well, we'll delve into these topics.”
Highlighting the significance of the visit, Sudani said, “This visit is timed perfectly with the launch of a major development project aimed at boosting trade between Asia and Europe. Primarily, this refers to the North–South Transport Corridor. This project is poised to benefit all regional nations and, on a larger scale, the global community.”
Middle East crisis
The Russian premier seized the moment to critique U.S. Middle Eastern policies, labeling the current state of affairs as “a transparent testament to the United States’ flawed policy in the Middle East.”
PM Sudani addressed the situation in Palestine as “intricate and perilous”, attributing it to Israel's persistent rights violations against Palestinians. He criticized the global community for its passivity, stating, “The ongoing silence and inaction in the face of Israel's transgressions against the Palestinians highlight the world’s failure to uphold international resolutions.”
Sudani added, “Now, as Arab and Islamic nations, in collaboration with Russia—a UN Security Council permanent member and major global power—we bear a collective responsibility. It's our moral duty to cease these infringements on Palestinian rights and to conclude the Gaza Strip blockade.”
11. October 2023 10:33
Welcome to the midweek edition of our live blog. Today we're following the KRG's cabinet meeting, day two of the Meri Forum in Erbil, and Sudani's visit to Moscow. Stay tuned!