Kurdish team visits Baghdad after Iraq wins dispute over oil exports

Talks take place after ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce

Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Masrour Barzani sent a delegation to Baghdad to discuss oil and gas resources. AFP
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Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan sent a senior delegation to Baghdad on Sunday for talks over the long-standing issue of developing and exporting oil and gas resources, an Oil Ministry official said.

The visit comes a day after Baghdad announced it had won an arbitration case at the International Chamber of Commerce and halted Kurdistan's unilateral oil exports through Turkey.

Baghdad and Kurdistan have been in dispute over the right to develop and export natural resources from the region since 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The Kurds say the country's 2005 Constitution gives them the right to sign agreements with oil companies and states without consulting Baghdad.

Baghdad maintains that the region has no right to sign deals and that exports must go through the state-run pipelines.

The federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have held a series of talks in recent weeks to find a solution to the dispute.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani met Kurdish leaders including Masoud Barzani, the head of Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of two groups that share power in the region.

Shortly after Saturday’s announcement, Mr Barzani said the discussions with Baghdad “laid the groundwork for us to overcome the arbitration ruling today”.

He said the team sent by Erbil to Baghdad on Sunday would build on the “goodwill” in talks with the central government.

The Kurdistan delegation was holding technical discussions at the Oil Ministry on Sunday afternoon, an official told The National.

Mr Al Sudani said this month that the federal and KRG governments had reached a deal to deposit Kurdistan oil revenues in a bank account under Baghdad's supervision.

In 2014, Baghdad filed a suit at the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, accusing Turkey of breaching a 1973 joint agreement by allowing the KRG to export oil through a pipeline to the port of Ceyhan.

In defiance of Baghdad, Erbil and Ankara continued their co-operation in sending about 450,000 barrels a day to the international market.

Excluding the output from Kurdistan, Iraq, Opec’s second largest producer, exports an average of 3.3 million barrels a day.

On Saturday, Iraq stopped the export of 370,000 barrels from Kurdistan and 75,000 barrels from northern Kirkuk, Reuters reported.

Several issues between Baghdad and Erbil surfaced after the 2003 invasion, including natural resources and control over disputed lands claimed by both sides.

On Sunday evening, Rebaz Hamlan, an adviser to KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, said that the halting of oil exports from the Kurdish region would only last until an agreement was reached.

"It is true that oil exports have been halted, but this is a temporary situation because we have good relations with the Iraqi government and the government of Mohammed Shia Al Sudani,” Mr Hamlan told Kurdish outlet Rudaw.

He said that due to the financial crunch caused by the halt of exports, the regional government would give priority to paying public-sector workers, payments that comprise most of the Kurdish region's budget.

Updated: March 26, 2023, 10:22 PM