BAGHDAD: Baghdad will not pay the salaries of employees of the Iraqi Kurdish region government (KRG) and will not initiate dialogue with the regional government until Kurds give up the September-referendum, Iraqi political leaders told Arab News on Monday.
There would also be no pay or dialogue until the Kurds handed over control of the border crossings and airports to the federal authorities and the central government regained control over the exports of oil through the Ceyhan-Turkey pipeline, they said.
Kurdistan held a controversial referendum on independence on Sept. 25. Baghdad imposed a series of punitive measures, including a ban on international flights to airports in the region and launched a military operation to regain control over Kirkuk, its lucrative oil fields and the disputed areas, which have been controlled by the KRG in the past years.
The Supreme Federal Court last week ruled that the referendum is “unconstitutional” and its results and implications “should be canceled.” KRG said that the court’s decision was “unilateral and political motivated” and has not expressed a commitment to the court’s decisions.
To ease sanctions and start a dialogue with its government, Baghdad asked for the cancelation of the referendum and the delivery of border crossings and airports within the region to the federal authorities.
“The demands of the federal government are still in place and there is no change in attitude. Canceling the referendum or declaring their (Kurds) commitment to the unity of Iraq is still the first requirement for everyone in Baghdad,” Abdullah Al-Zaidi, who is in charge of Shiite-Kurdish relations within the ruling Shiite National Alliance, told Arab News.
“We have not heard explicit and clear expressions stating the cancelation of the referendum. They have been using loose phrases which are not conclusive,” Zaidi said.
The Kurdish regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, in a televised press conference on Monday, called for Baghdad to cancel its punitive measures in the region and start “serious” talks with the KRG over the disputed issues.
“Baghdad should abolish all punitive measures imposed on the region of Kurdistan, in accordance with the decision of the Federal Court,” Barazani said.
“So far, we have not met with the federal government to understand the meaning of handing over the border crossings … We do not mind the presence of observers from the federal government at the airports,” Barazani said.
KRG has controlled the Iraqi oil exports since June 2014, when Daesh overran the nearby province of Mosul where the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline network extends, and Kurdish forces drove the federal troops out Kirkuk and the north oil fields.
Baghdad last month regained control over the northern oil fields in Kirkuk and Mosul during the recent military operation, but Fishkhabour, the crossing where the major Iraqi oil pipelines network and the regional sub-oil pipelines network to transport the oil of the north, is still under the control of Kurdish forces.
Sanctions imposed by Baghdad since October have partially crippled the regional government and deprived it of oil revenues.
Barazani said that KRG currently exports half of the amount of oil which is supposed to be exported from the fields of the north, which is 650,000 barrels per day.
Local officials in Kurdistan told Arab News that the region is facing serious economic problems due to the corruption and control by certain families of the region’s revenues from oil exports, airports and the crossings.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi previously said that Baghdad is ready to pay the salaries of the government employees in Kurdistan if the federal authorities gain control over the oil exports and revenues.
“No salaries will be paid for the employees in the region unless Baghdad controls the exports of oil,” Zaidi, said. “If Baghdad controls the sales of the oil exported from the fields of Kirkuk, Kurdistan (the region) and north Mosul, then the salaries will be paid,” Zaidi said.
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