NEW YORK: Baghdad is trying to mitigate financial and political issues with the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraq’s prime minister said on Wednesday.
“There’s no political crisis, but there are legal and financial problems that are being worked on by the cabinet,” Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani told the Middle East Global Summit in New York, attended by Arab News.
His remarks came after KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani addressed a letter to US President Joe Biden pleading for intervention in a deepening crisis with Baghdad.
The rift between Iraq’s federal government and the KRG has intensified over budgetary allocations and revenues from oil sales that both sides lay claim to.
Baghdad says the sale of oil from the KRG directly to Turkey is illegal. However, the KRG says it has the right to sell its own oil and keep the resulting revenue.
After Iraq took the issue to an international court this year, Turkey was fined $1.5 billion and subsequently halted imports of oil from the KRG region.
Al-Sudani met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, and a visit by the Iraqi prime minister to the White House was announced the next day.
A solution to the KRG-Baghdad rift, said Al-Sudani, “must come from Baghdad rather than from outside.”
Meanwhile, he said gas is the next major investment opportunity for Americans and others looking to set up shop in Iraq.
“We’re planning to become a gas-exporting country. This is possible because of the huge reserves of gas in Iraq that haven’t been explored,” he added.
Seeking foreign investment in gas is part of Iraq’s plan for transformation, Al-Sudani said, adding: “There’s a new Iraq emerging based on institutions, not persons — an Iraq that’s based on a diverse economy and real fighting of corruption.”
When asked about Iraq’s closeness to Iran, he said other countries are able to achieve a balance of diplomatic relations with the US and Iran.
“We always face this question … as if we’re the only country in the world that has relations with Iran,” he added.
“In order to be friends with the US, we have to sit and talk bad about Iran, and vice versa … This is very weird and peculiar.”
Al-Sudani said the geographic and religious closeness between Iraq and Iran, as well as the latter’s support for Iraq’s political process and counterterrorism efforts, have led to Baghdad’s continuing cooperation with Tehran.