Kurds vow not to relent on oil development and exports

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By Abbas al-Baghdadi

Azzaman, April 19, 2014

Iraqi Kurds have pledged not to give in to pressure from Baghdad on their right to develop and export oil on their own and their share from the country’s oil royalties.

The row between the sides has escalated with both threatening unspecified consequences.

Baghdad says it has the sole right to develop and sell the country’s natural resources including oil; the Kurds dispute the privilege and denounce it as unconstitutional.

The sparring has delayed the ratification of the 2014 budget, prompting the government to stop transferring funds to Kurdish regional government.

In a last bid to normalize ties, the government sent Deputy Prime Minister Qusai Suhail to Arbil, the seat of Kurdish regional government, to explore a possible compromise.

But the visit came to nothing, according to Mahmoud Othman, the head of the Kurdish bloc at the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad.

Othman said the sides have failed to reach an agreement and the discussion of the current conflict over the budget and oil will be deferred to next parliament and government.

Iraqis go to polls at the end of the month to vote for a new parliament, which then selects a new government in light of elections results.

Analysts say it is doubtful that the new legislature or government will solve outstanding issues.

They say no government in Baghdad will be willing to relinquish control of natural resources and give the Kurds the right to develop oil on their own, export it and collect its royalties.

Such a stand, they say, will encourage other oil-rich regions and provinces to ask for the same privileges.

There are already moves to in the southern Province of Basra, where most of Iraqi oil exports originate, for greater control and supervision of natural resources and greater share of the budget.

The Kurds receive 17 percent of each dollar Iraq earns from oil exports which at current prices is estimated at $20 billion a year.

But the government has stopped ferrying the Kurdish share for the past few months, plunging the Kurdish region into a financial crisis.