London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Falah Mustafa, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq foreign relations department (equivalent to foreign minister), said that KRG Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani will visit Baghdad in mid-June to discuss with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and other officials concerns between Kurdistan and the federal government, in particular, the oil and gas bill and the fate of Kirkuk.
He said: “Oil exploration operations in the region are continuing and there are oil contracts waiting to be signed, in addition to the ones signed two years ago. We are now in the production stage.” He highlighted Prime Minister Barzani’s assertion that the “region is ready to pump oil through Iraqi pipelines at the rate of 1 million barrels per day to start with.”
He added that the “regional government’s compliance with the oil resources issue is in accordance with the Iraqi constitution. That is, 17 percent of the revenues go to the region’s government and 38 percent to the federal government in Baghdad. This means we [KRG] are not taking all the revenue, as some wrongly believe.” Mustafa stressed: “Under the Iraqi constitution, oil and gas belong to the people and we can offer much to our Iraqi people, particularly now at the stage of building and reconstruction.”
He indicated that the Iraqi oil and gas bill “was delayed because of differences in the views of the region’s government and some in the federal government who want to keep the oil industry policy as it was before; that is, subject to total central policy. We in the regional government and some officials in the federal government believe this important industry should be subject to the free market and open to investors to rebuild the oil industry’s technology and expand exploration and investments. This is more of an economic issue than a political one; otherwise, Iraq will have to be content exporting two million barrels a day at a time when it has the potential to export six million barrels.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat in London, Mustafa said: “We are here to meet British officials and discuss the situations in the region of Kurdistan and Iraq and the ongoing political process in the country and also to strengthen our relations, particularly the political, economic, and cultural ones.”
“We are acting in accordance with what is set out for us in the Iraqi constitution and what is in accordance with Iraq’s foreign policy and in coordination with the foreign ministry to serve Iraq as a whole and the region of Kurdistan because we are part of Iraq and the Iraqi people,” he added.
On the nature of relations today between the KRG and the federal Iraqi government and whether the negative situation in Baghdad affects KRG policies, Mustafa said: “It is known that the Kurdish political leadership decided, in accordance with the voluntary union principle, that we should be part of Iraq, live in peace, act for the country’s progress, and do everything we can in the interest of the Iraqi people. As long as the region is part of Iraq, we will do everything in our power to positively influence the political, economic, and cultural situations all over Iraq. We always call on our brothers in Baghdad to take our experiences in these fields to Iraq’s other areas and are trying our best not to let some of the negative situations in some Iraqi areas to affect the region [Kurdistan].”
Regarding the proposals by the UN secretary general’s representative for solving the question of Kirkuk and other disputed areas, the Kurdish official said: “the solution for this problem needs real will and political determination by all the Iraqi parties. The best solution is compliance with Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. The Kurdish leadership’s acceptance of it signified a large concession.” He highlighted: “If Kirkuk comes under the region administratively, it will not mean it will be separated from Iraq. It will remain Iraqi, similar to Arbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Duhok, which are Iraqi governorates.”
He added: “The first stage proposals presented by the UN secretary general’s representative are not practical and ignore many facts. They are non-binding proposals and were a deep disappointment for the Iraqi parties.” Mustafa appeared optimistic about Kurdish-Turkish relations, and said: “We are seeking to develop our economic, cultural, and political relations with our neighbor Turkey because it knows that we can play a positive role in the relations between it and Iraq. It is a historic neighbor and helped us a lot in the past. It has big investments in the region and can expand them in Iraq’s other regions.”