ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Prime Minister of Iraq’s recent statements on oil exports from the Kurdistan Region while discussing the ongoing crisis are “inaccurate,” a Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) official said on Thursday.
The spokesperson for the KRG, Safeen Dizayee, stated that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s comments on Kurdistan’s oil exports were “not accurate” and issued eleven corrections.
“After the Iraqi government refused to pay the Kurdistan Region’s share of the federal budget in 2014, we began to export oil, and since then and to this day, the Kurdistan Region’s oil revenue was used to pay the salaries of its employees,” Dizayee explained.
Abadi claimed the Kurdistan Region, despite the Oct. 16 attack and takeover of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militias, exported 450,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) in October.
“Everyone knows that after the Oct. 16 events, the Bay Hassan and Havana fields, which produced 250,000 bpd, have come under the control of the Iraqi government and the North Oil Company (NOC) and their exports have been halted since,” Dizayee said. “As a result, the Kurdistan Region’s revenue has decreased by half.”
Abadi claimed the Region had been making millions since the Oct. 16 despite losing the major Kirkuk oil fields as Baghdad retaliated against the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 referendum on independence.
“The figures published by the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and referred to by the Prime Minister have not been audited, and Iraq’s membership to the International Transparency Initiative has been suspended since 2016 for their non-compliance with the organization’s criteria,” Dizayee countered.
“The Ministry of Natural Resources for the Kurdistan Region, since 2014 until the end of 2016, has presented monthly reports for the production, sale, and revenues for its oil exports, and since the start of 2017, world-renowned auditing firm Deloitte has been overseeing the process.”
Baghdad and Erbil disagree as to the amount required to pay all government employee salaries. Abadi believes the Kurdistan Region’s monthly salary needs do not exceed 300 billion dinars – almost a third of what the KRG pays.
“We do not know what the sources of this incorrect information are and how Abadi can be so sure [of his numbers],” Dizayee said. The Federal Government of Iraq has yet to hold a census in the country, despite the Iraqi constitution requiring it to settle the fate of the disputed territories, including the oil-rich Kirkuk.
Diyazee also pointed out that the 2018 budget bill does not allocate any funds for oil companies operating in the Kurdistan Region nor does its federal budget share cover even half of the amount required for government employee’s salaries.
The Kurdish official also lambasted Baghdad for sending inadequate amounts of fuel during the winter time, and for failing to pay farmers in the Kurdistan Region since 2014. The health and education sectors have also suffered from the central government’s refusal to provide salaries.
Tensions between Erbil and Baghdad have increased since the Region held an independence referendum on Sep. 25, 2017, which won overwhelming support for secession from Iraq.
Baghdad refused to recognize the vote and instead responded by imposing collective punitive measures against Kurdistan, including the use of military force in disputed areas. It also slashed the Kurdistan Region’s federal budget share from 17 percent to 12.6 percent, a decision which Abadi has stated would not be revisited.