Iraqi premier mulls setting up ‘national council’ to oversee oil exports

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By Abbas al-Baghdadi

Azzaman, January 21, 2014

Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki wants to set up a ‘national council’ that will supervise oil development, output and exports.

Maliki made the remarks following reports that Baghdad and the Kurdish region were close to solving differences over oil exports.

A high-level Kurdish delegation headed by the region’s Prime Minister Nejervan Barzani ended a visit to Baghdad for talks on how to handle development of crude oil found in abundance across the country.

The Kurds have invested heavily in developing oil fields in their areas and already have solid infrastructure of pipelines and storage capacity to export up to 400,000 barrels of oil a day to Turkish terminals on the Mediterranean.

Maliki said he was pleased with the talks which he hoped will put an end to the ongoing dispute with Kurds over oil exports.

“It is important that the country adopts a unified stand vis-à-vis its oil exports as our strength is in our unity,” he said. “We want to have a national budget that takes into consideration realistic economic factors.”

“I urge the formation of a national council with representatives from the Kurdish region to supervise oil policies until a new oil law is promulgated,” Maliki said.

This year’s budget has been delayed by the parliament over differences with the Kurdish region and the royalties it has collected from what the government says are ‘illicit’ oil exports.

The Kurds rely on allocations from the central government which amount to 17% of the hard cash the country earns from its oil exports.

The deputies insisted on reducing the region’s share by at least seven percent unless the Kurds provided a full account of their own oil exports.

But the talks with Barzani in Baghdad seem to have reached a good conclusion, according to Deputy Prime Minister Husain Shahristani, who said that that Kurds in principle have accepted a government proposal that all oil exports originating anywhere in the country must under an agreed upon national scheme.

“The Kurds have promised not to export oil until a final agreement is reached,” added Shahristani.