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Kurdistan: PM Barzani faces the heat over Erbil–Ankara oil deal - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraq's Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani speaks to the media after voting in Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, about 350 km (217 miles) north of Baghdad, September 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)

Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani speaks to the media after voting in Erbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, about 217 miles (350 km) north of Baghdad on September 21, 2013. (Reuters/Thaier Al-Sudani)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—An expected Erbil–Ankara oil export deal has come under fire from political opponents in Kurdistan, with MPs labeling the deal “illegal.”

Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) caretaker Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to finalize the oil pipeline deal with the Turkish government. He met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss energy cooperation.

Speaking to CNNTurk television on Wednesday, Barzani confirmed that Iraq’s Kurds are hoping to start pumping oil to Turkey before the end of the year via the Baghdad-controlled pipeline. However, the expected deal has been strongly criticized by opponents of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, who were the big winners in September’s elections.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Kurdistan Islamic Union MP Abu Bakr Hldni said any deal signed with Ankara would be “illegal,” given that the caretaker government is not entitled to seal any commercial deals, particularly regarding the oil sector.

“Barzani’s visit to Turkey to sign the oil pipeline deal is illegal because a caretaker government does not have the right to sign deals of this kind,” he said.

Hldni stressed that the outgoing government should have delayed the issue until the next government—which Barzani has been tasked with forming—can give it sufficient consideration.

Hldni also told Asharq Al-Awsat that in his view, the majority of oil deals signed by the Barzani government with foreign corporations are not transparent and do not serve the best interests of the people of Kurdistan.

Kurdistan Democratic Party MP Firsat Soufi affirmed that the Barzani caretaker government does have the right to issue any laws or conclude any contracts at the current time. However, he stressed that all the legal proceedings leading up to the deal with Ankara have been studied and concluded, so the Barzani government has the legal right to sign the proposed agreement.

Soufi also called on all parties and political movements in Kurdistan to show restraint during the current period when negotiations are ongoing over the formation of a new government.

The KRG caretaker prime minister will head to Baghdad following his visit to Turkey in order to provide the central government with clarifications over the expected deal between Erbil and Ankara.