Tehran, Washington and Ankara have voiced their readiness to play mediation roles to help resolve the dispute between the central government in Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdistan’s Regional Government, media reports said.
“Some countries like Iran, the US and Turkey are due to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil to help them resolve their differences,” Khandan news website quoted KRG Deputy Economy Minister Rashid Taher as saying on Wednesday.
Taher reiterated that the mediations aim to resolve the differences between the central government in Baghdad and the KRG over budget allocations and crude exports revenues, and said, “We are ready for resolving the differences and hope that they will be settled through dialogue.”
Kurdistan, which enjoys a high level of autonomy from Baghdad and has its own security forces, government and flag, has also drawn Baghdad’s ire for signing contracts with foreign energy firms without its approval.
Diplomats and officials say the disputes between Baghdad and the KRG are one of the biggest long-term threats to Iraq’s stability.
The long-standing ambition of Kurdish leaders to incorporate other historically Kurdish-majority areas into their autonomous region, against Baghdad’s strong opposition, is another major point of contention.
Moreover, Baghdad is at odds with Erbil over the exports of crude oil from Kurdistan region.
Baghdad argues that all oil sales must be overseen by the central government, and regards any independent exports as tantamount to smuggling.
In February, Iraq’s top minister responsible for energy affairs criticized the autonomous Kurdish region’s push towards exporting oil independently of Baghdad, calling it a grey area lacking transparency.
Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani’s remarks were the latest salvo in a long-running row between the central government and the Northern Kurdish region over energy sales and, by extension, the extent of federalism in Iraq.
“The most prominent challenge is that we have not reached a national agreement to extract and market oil from all of Iraq’s territory,” Shahristani said in a speech in Baghdad at an event looking at the past decade for Iraq’s energy industry.
“The situation with the Kurdistan region is still stuck. This file is not resolved, in spite of some progress having been made. We hope it will end soon”.
Shahristani continued, “We have a grey area — we do not know how much oil the region is extracting, what price they are selling at, and where the revenue goes. ”
Iraq has threatened to boycott Turkish companies and cancel contracts after the Kurdish region last month announced its first shipment of crude sent directly to Turkey, without passing through pipelines controlled by Baghdad, had gone on sale, with more expected to follow.