Iraqi Kurdistan gets new cabinet, without oil minister

Members of the Parliament of the Kurdistan region vote to nominate Masrour Barzani for Prime Minister of the Kurdistan region, in Erbil, Iraq July 10, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 10 July 2019

Iraqi Kurdistan gets new cabinet, without oil minister

  • Barzani was appointed premier nearly a month ago by his cousin Nechirvan Barzani

IRBIL: A new regional government came into power Wednesday in Iraqi Kurdistan, but the key post of oil minister remained unassigned and therefore de facto managed by new prime minister Masrour Barzani.
Barzani was appointed premier nearly a month ago by his cousin Nechirvan Barzani, who had served as prime minister for seven years before he was elected president in June.
Masrour Barzani is the son of veteran Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, who remains a crucial powerbroker in the autonomous region.
On Wednesday, 88 of the regional government’s 111-member body granted a vote of confidence to 21 new ministers.
Among them, the Barzani-led Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was awarded nine ministerial posts.
In October 2017, the KDP spearheaded a controversial independence referendum that prompted Baghdad to reoccupy large swathes of Kurdish-held territory and led to Masoud’s resignation as president.
Nearly a year later, the party emerged victorious in regional parliamentary elections and has since cemented its control of key government posts, including the presidency, premiership and cabinet chief.
Its main rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was awarded six ministers. Qubad Talabani, the son of PUK founder Jalal Talabani, will retain his post as deputy premier.
Four of the new ministers hail from the Goran (Change) Movement and one from the Kurdistan Socialist Party.
Based on a sectarian quota system, one post was also awarded to the region’s Christian minority.
But the ministry of natural resources — of which oil is the most important and lucrative — remains without an official head, making PM Barzani its de facto manager.
The regional government in Irbil is currently locked in a dispute over oil revenues with Iraq’s federal authorities, which insist that the KRG must hand over revenues from the 250,000 bpd it exports through the north.
In exchange, the KRG would receive a portion of the federal budget and Baghdad would pay the salaries of its employees.
The parties regularly accuse each other of failing to fulfil their obligations.
Observers have pointed out that Nechirvan Barzani’s ascent to the presidency could ease the ties between the two, but Masrour Barzani — who embodies the KDP’s more “nationalist” current — would adopt a harder line and be less willing to negotiate.
On Wednesday, PM Barzani said a delegation from Irbil would travel to Baghdad soon to strengthen ties.
Ministers would then tackle the profound financial crisis ravaging the Kurdish region’s economy in recent years.
“The government currently owes $14 billion in debts,” he said.


South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

Updated 13 October 2019

South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

  • Hamdok will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile

JUBA: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok will attend peace talks in the South Sudan capital Monday with rebel leaders from several Sudanese states, said official sources in Juba.
“Tomorrow’s meeting is to mark the launching of Sudan’s peace talks,” Ateny Wek Ateny, spokesman for South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, told AFP Sunday.
Hamdok, who was only appointed in August in a deal between the army and the opposition, will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Kiir, who just a few weeks ago signed his own peace deal with rebel leader Riek Machar, offered to mediate between Sudan and the rebels back in November 2018.
This new set of talks follow a first round in September when both sides agreed on a road map for the negotiations.
This week’s meeting is intended to tackle the main issues, said Ateny.
Also attending will be Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who last week won the Nobel Peace Prize, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Their presence, said Ateny, was to give the talks more weight.
A senior Sudanese delegation arrived in Juba on Sunday.
The Sudanese delegation will meet Abdulaziz Al-Hilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which is active in Bule Nile and South Kordofan states. Al-Hilu will lead the rebel delegation.
This new peace initiative comes after the fall of longtime Sudanese autocrat Omar Al-Bashir, who was toppled from power by the Sudanese military in April.
Prime Minister Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end the conflicts with the rebels.
Over the years, the rebels’ conflict with Khartoum have killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee their homes.