Session 8: Baghdad-KRG relations, between interdependence and independence
Part 1: Intervention of Qubad Talabani (Deputy PM, KRG)
Part 2: Intervention of Bayan Jabr al-Zubaidi (M. Transport, Iraq)
Part 3: Intervention of Ashty Hawrami (Minister NR, KRG)
Transcription of Qubad Talabani (Deputy Prime Minister, KRG)
Dear respected guests,
Thanks for this invitation. I would like to congratulate Dr. Dlawer for organizing this event. I personally remember that two years ago, in the American University, he took me aside and told me that he had in mind to create a forum like this to facilitate the discussion of political and economical issues. I am very glad that I am participating in it today and I congratulate MERI and all of its staff. I hope that year by year this forum will become broader and that the topics discussed will be of greater importance.
I would like to use this tribune to discuss shortly a topic of my interest. Today, as I see it, Iraq has been given an opportunity to overcome the problems and hardships that it is facing. It has been a while since the atmosphere in the country last allowed for a small hope that all sides can work to overcome the issues.
It has been the failed politics, not only of this last Iraqi cabinet but also the cabinet before that too, that have created an environment in Iraq that brought numerous hardships. It is our responsibility today to overcome them together in one way or other.
The visible problem today in Iraq is that a large portion of the country is not under the control of the Iraqi government. It is under the control of a foreign side. We don’t know how to name it: terrorist organization, Islamic state, terrorist state… nobody knows. They behave like a State, they manage the regions, they have salaries. This creates a reality that should not be accepted in any way by Iraq or by the international community.
But it is a reality. A reality that today this country is in foreign hands and that this has occurred due to the unsuccessful politics in this country. Iraq has not been able to make the parts that form it feel like this country is their country. Iraq has not had a vision that facilitates the different parts to tie themselves into something that was named Iraq.
Unfortunately with the entry of this foreign force, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region are at war against this criminal group that is directing this country towards worse hardships. This war was not desired, it was a war that neither we and Iraq wanted. However, it is a circumstantial war and I am sure that we will overcome it with determination.
Beside this issue, we have other issues, such as financial difficulties. Whether in Iraq or the Kurdistan Region, a failed political approach has implied that a country with such natural resources and such potential to generate income has not been able to prosper. Unfortunately, this environment is an outcome of the political struggle between the parts that form this country: between the KRG and Baghdad, between the governorates themselves, between the governorates and Baghdad, and vice-versa.
I previously mentioned it: there is a lack of vision, the lack of something that ties us all together. The Constitution should contribute to tie us together. We have the opportunity nowadays thanks to the newly formed governments in Baghdad and in Erbil. The government in Baghdad was formed after a long discussion that had the aim to truly help each political side to overcome these hardships together.
Most importantly, we must not let slip out of our hands this newly formed political atmosphere in Iraq. The KRG delegation is prepared to go to Baghdad and start discussing with each side, because we all face the same issues. The issue of war, of finance, of exporting the oil…
On oil exports, the infrastructure that let the oil from the north to be exported through Iraq no longer exists. There is only the infrastructure that the Kurdistan Region has set within its borders. In addition, the drop of oil prices in the world market forces us to discuss together how to keep on the right track. It will be in the benefit of all sides for us to be able to put the Kurdistan Region’s oil side by side with the oil of the other regions of Iraq within the parameters of a new system, a new agreement abided within the Iraqi Constitution. But this still needs the agreement between Kurdistan Region and Baghdad to be made.
We have some options at hand today in order to come to an agreement. We can come with a new system. Or we can stick to the rights that the Constitution has given to the Kurdistan Region and to the parameters that define how the natural resources of Iraq and the budget should be managed and distributed. However, since Baghdad has unrightfully cut Kurdistan’s budget for nearly eight months, we have independently increased the production of oil and today our oil is being sold transparently in the world market.
We can continue this separate way even without agreement. However, I think that an agreement is needed. We need a new system. It is a jointly solution that we must discuss seriously.
Political independence of the Kurdistan Region has been largely discussed. If we cannot come to an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad and Iraq still maintains the current attitude towards Kurdistan, we may have no other option than pursue independence. If Iraq is not to be a successful country, Kurdistan has always said that it will not be the one that will depart from Iraq. Rather the opposite, it may be Iraq the one that departs from us. By cutting our budget, Iraq seems committed to cut itself from us.
Economic independence of the Kurdistan Region does not have to be a negative outcome for Iraq. There is no reason to think that, if Kurdistan exports its own oil and generates its own revenue, this would be a heavy burden for Iraq. On the contrary, reaching an agreement on KRG’s oil exports and on the ability to spend our own revenues on our own expenses is in the benefit of all sides. With this in place, Baghdad would not be concerned about political struggles when it is time to send the budget. What is yours, is yours; what is mine, is mine.
This is a feasible solution. This is a window of opportunity, although day after day is becoming smaller. This new political atmosphere and the external attacks we receive should serve to distance ourselves from partisan slogans and from the violence in which we have always fallen. The KRG and the Kurdish leaders have clearly said that we will give a chance to the new government. Baghdad must convince us that it has a new political approach and good intentions. I am looking forward to go into more detail on the topic after the session.
Finally, I would like to congratulate everyone who has had the role in putting together this forum and to all the speakers. I hope it has been beneficial for Iraq, Kurdistan and all the attendees. Thank you very much.