Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Kurdistan Faces Turkish Debts' Crisis

Kurdistan Faces Turkish Debts' Crisis

Saturday, 4 November, 2017 - 09:30
Protesters in Sulaymaniyah (EPA)

Iraqi federal government doesn't seem to be in a rush to solve the issue of employees in Kurdistan Region who, due to difficult living conditions, were forced to protest in the streets against Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) that hasn't paid August's payroll yet.

The federal government halted the Kurdish oil arriving at Turkish Jihan port and controlled the border outlets while suspending air flights. Kurdish civilians said that the government doesn't care about living conditions of Kurdish employees which prompted Kurdish MPs to exert more pressures.

MP Ahmad al-Hajj Rashid stated that he met with US Ambassador in Baghdad, along with MP Sarwah Abdulwahid, to ask for more pressures on Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in order to solve the region's employees problem.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Abadi conditions that all oil wells should under the government's control before paying the salaries, which could take a lot of time. He added that they informed the Ambassador that Kurdish members of the parliament will boycott parliament sessions if the cabinet didn't expedite the process.

Hajj Rashid stated that he sent several messages to Abadi to convene in order to discuss possible quick solutions to the salaries' issue. He added that he also wanted to request an advance on the salaries to the employees, however, Abadi hadn't responded so far.

The MP stated that within days, he will meet with President Fouad Masoum who requested the meeting to discuss possible ways to pressure the Prime Minister.

The striking thing is that Abadi's insistence to gain full control over Kurdish oil wells before paying the salaries collides with Turkey's condition that Kurdistan region must pay all its debts before allowing Iraqi oil to pass through Turkish Jihan port under the supervision of Iraqi company Somo.

Turkey had previously offered Kurdistan debts of about four million dollars to facilitate the payment of employees' salaries. However, Ankara is now demanding the debts be fully reimbursed before resuming Iraqi oil exportation.

MP Hajj Rashid believes this to be quite a difficult matter since the regional government doesn't have any financial resources to meet its debts. He explained that the federal government doesn't have to pay because Iraqi constitution stipulates that any debts requested from foreign countries should be passed by the parliament and approved by lawmakers. Yet, since KRG didn't receive the parliament's approval when it took those loans from Turkey, the federal government does not have to pay the debts.

Between the Turkish and Iraqi conditions, and evasion of responsibility to pay the debts, Kurdish citizens are suffering from their living conditions that continue to deteriorate without any hope of improvement.

Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Ali al-Allaibi revealed on Wednesday that no agreement had been reached between Turkey and Iraqi on oil export from Kirkuk to Jihan port.

Speaking during the inauguration of a new oil terminal in Karbala with a storage capacity of 64 million liters, Minister Allaibi assured that over the coming days, negotiations with Ankara will continue.

Iraqi government insists on having full control over oil wells that were previously under the control of Kurdish forces.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that federal government had indeed managed to gain control over several oil wells in Kirkuk, Makhmour, and several areas in Mosul. However, 34 wells in Saheelah area remain under the control of Kurdish forces. Based on Iraqi standards, those wells should produce 3,000 oil barrels per day, but they produce over 15,000 oil barrels per day.

Kurdish sources of the Iraqi parliament revealed that the budget bill is being discussed in the federal cabinet, and according to information leaked, the wording of the project contradicts with the interests of Kurdish people. Kurdish MPs are threatening to boycott parliamentary sessions if the bill hadn't been amended.

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