Barham Salih calls for dialogue between Baghdad, Erbil to resolve oil

Iraqi President Barham Salih called on Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region to resolve issues of oil and gas through dialogue.

In a statement, Salih stressed the need for “serious and urgent” dialogue between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to find mechanisms to solve their oil and gas issues.

He further said the mechanisms should also guarantee the constitutional entitlements of the Kurdistan Region and Iraqis, Esta Media Network reported.

His statement came after Iraq’s federal court ruled to deem the Kurdistan Region’s oil and gas industry unconstitutional.

The Iraqi federal court stated in its decision on Tuesday that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) must hand over all crude from the Kurdistan Region and neighboring areas to the federal government.

It further said the KRG oil contracts with oil companies, foreign parties and states “invalid”, including exploration, extraction and sale agreements.

It also ruled to commit the KRG to allow the Iraqi oil ministry to “review all oil contracts entered into by KRG for the export and sale of oil and gas”.

The KRG has been developing oil and gas resources independently of the federal government, and in 2007 entered its own law that established the directives by which the Region would administer these resources.

KRG crude is exported through a pipeline that runs from Iraq’s Kirkuk region to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Iraq’s federal government has long called for all oil exports in the country to go through it, having previously lashed out at Turkey in 2012 and 2014 for its role in refining and re-exporting oil produced in the Kurdistan Region.

On Tuesday, the KRG said on Tuesday the ruling itself was “unjust, unconstitutional” and “unacceptable”.

The KRG would not “forfeit the rights of the Kurdistan Region as codified in the Iraqi Constitution, and will continue its attempts to reach a constitutional solution with the federal government on this matter”.

Separately, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani said the ruling would further “exacerbate the disputes” between Baghdad and Erbil on the issues of oil and gas.

“At a time when Iraq is passing through a turbulent political period, it is unfortunate that the ruling of the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq deems the Kurdistan Region’s oil and gas law unconstitutional, causing the Kurdistan region great concern,” he said on Wednesday.

Iraq’s constitution says regions and provinces can have a modicum of independence over oil but that the specifics should be spelled out in a separate law. Such a law has never been passed.

Baghdad filed a lawsuit challenging the region’s claims in 2012. The case was suspended in the last known hearing in September 2019 after the judge requested that then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi sign off on continuing the legal battle.

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