The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government has denounced Iraq’s central government for freezing the Kurdish enclave’s share of the national budget over an oil dispute, while the KRG deputy prime minister warned that the “economic siege” could lead to Iraq’s disintegration.
KRG spokesman Safeen Dizayee said in a statement that Erbil did not expect Baghdad to take out its wrath over the oil export deal to Turkey by cutting off the salaries of government workers in Kurdistan.
“What was not expected was (Iraqi) Prime Minister Nuri Maliki taking such measures and mixing political files with the salaries of Kurdistan employees and the lives of its citizens while talks continue between the two sides,” Dizayee said.
He said that Kurdish authorities were expecting officials in Baghdad to be more responsible in addressing outstanding problems, not deepening them by cutting the salaries of public servants in Kurdistan.
Meanwhile, the KRG’s Deputy Prime Minister Emad Ahmed accused Maliki of “authoritarian” rule and warned that his actions could lead to the break-up of the country.
“We believe such a step will greatly harm the territorial integrity of Iraq and its survival,” Ahmed told the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s newspaper, Kurdistani Nwe. “It’s not possible to rule the country in such an authoritarian way and violate the constitution and political values for political gains,” he was quoted as saying.
Ahmed said that Kurdistan’s budget is a constitutional entitlement and cannot be used to sort out political disputes.
Iraq’s Shiite-led government is locked in a serious quarrel with the Kurdistan Region. Baghdad insists that oil revenues from oil exports that Erbil wants to begin to Turkey through a new pipeline should be handled by its State Oil Marketing Organization; the Kurds want to handle export and revenues, with SOMO as an observer.
In order to put pressure on the Kurds, Maliki and his close advisors have cut the KRG from the national budget. Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has called that tantamount to “a declaration of war.”
In his latest comments about the issue, Maliki said that budget payments had simply been delayed, explaining that one of the reasons was over the amount of oil — 400,000 barrels – that Kurdistan was supposed to export daily. He said that Erbil-Baghdad differences had been “exaggerated.”
Baghdad alleges that the budget has been halted because the KRG’s failure to honor the exports had led to a budget deficit, a claim rejected by Erbil.
In the KRG statement, Dizayee reaffirmed Erbil’s commitment to the constitution and dialogue to settle the differences with the federal government. He urged Baghdad not to use the budget as a political tool to address political differences.
“What can be seen vividly is that the prime minister has discriminated and has paid the salaries of the rest of Iraq, with the exception of Kurdistan, and has imposed a financial blockade on the people of Kurdistan,” the statement said.
It reminded Iraqi officials that Kurdistan is “the safest part of Iraq,” and that the enclave has opened its doors to refugees from other parts of the violence-torn country, regardless of whether they were Arabs, Shiites or Christians.
“We have embraced them (refugees) and provided them with shelter and service without sectarian or religious discriminations,” Dizayee said.
“We must recognize the fact that deepening the differences will have repercussions and a negative impact on the success of the elections and the democratic process in the country,” the statement said, referring to Iraq’s legislative elections, due in April.
Dizayee reiterated that no oil had been sold yet through a new pipeline, though exports could have started weeks ago. “The federal government knows very well that not even one barrel of oil has been sold through the pipeline between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey.”