TODAYSZAMAN.COM – KRG leader pays a critical visit to Turkey, oil revenues discussed

KRG leader pays a critical visit to Turkey, oil revenues discussedTen months having passed since his historic visit to DiyarbakIr to enhance the settlement process between the Turkish government and the country’s Kurdish population, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani again paid a visit to Turkey, this time with the Kurds’ share from Iraqi oil revenue at the top of his busy agendaKurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Barzani arrived in Ankara on Monday and held talks with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan. Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoIlu also attended the Barzani-Gul meeting, which was closed to the press.

Barzani and DavutoIlu were also expected to both attend, separately, an iftar on Monday evening.KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami, Finance Minister Rebar Muhammad and KRG government spokesperson Sefin Dizayee accompanied Barzani during his visit.

On Sunday, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani paid an unexpected visit to Turkey to prepare the ground for the KRG president’s upcoming visit to Turkey. He arrived in Istanbul early in the morning on a private jet and visited ErdoIan at the prime minister’s Dolmabahe office.

The KRG prime minister reportedly returned to Arbil after the meeting.No official statement was made by Turkish officials on President Barzani’s meetings with Turkish leaders on Monday by the time Today’s Zaman went to press.

However, revenue from oil shipped from the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq through Turkey, the increasing voices from the KRG on independence and Turkish hostages seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are the main issues likely to have been discussed during Barzani’s visits.Before the KRG leader’s arrival into Turkey, Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish media outlets reported that Barzani and the accompanying ministers are in Turkey to collect the Kurdish share of revenues from the sale of Iraqi oil that is deposited in Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, but Energy Minister Taner YIldIz denied such reports, saying instead that the Kurdish delegation wants to turn temporary bank accounts opened for that purpose into permanent accounts.

“They are coming, together with [Turkish] officials, for the opening of [permanent] accounts. We are making efforts to ensure that this becomes a sustainable business,” YIldIz told reporters.

In May, the first oil cargo was sold on the Mediterranean spot crude market. In late June, the third tanker carrying oil from the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan departed Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Energy Minister Taner YIldIz said last month that $93 million for the first cargo loaded last month had been deposited at the lender bank, Halkbank.Iraqi Kurdish website Rudaw reported late on Sunday that the Kurdish delegation in Turkey is there to make sure that the KRG can ultimately be paid for its oil sales through Turkey.

“The purpose of the visit is to do with a bank account for Kurdish oil revenue, which has been sold through Turkey, and transferring the account to the Kurdistan region,” the KRG minister of finance was quoted by Rudaw as saying.The Rudaw report said the KRG has at least $93 million in its account at Halkbank, but it has been unable to withdraw its earnings from the sale of oil exported via a new pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

This is because the Turkish government is still waiting for the resolution of a dispute between the KRG and the Iraqi central government on how to share revenue from the sale of northern Iraqi oil.YIldIz said Turkey was not yet studying methods that would open the way for the Kurds to take their share of the entire Iraqi oil sale.

“We are talking about not only the northern Iraqi oil but also about Baghdad’s oil. The issue of splitting the northern Iraqi oil revenue is not yet on our agenda, this is an issue to be taken up in the future.

But, I have to say, we are working on [arrangements] concerning the rights of both Arbil [the KRG capital] and Baghdad,” YIldIz said.Turkey allows exports of KRG oil through its Mediterranean Sea terminal at Ceyhan under a deal with Arbil inked in 2013, a move which angered the Baghdad government, which claims the deal was illegal and vows to take legal action against Turkey.

KRG independenceThe KRG leader’s visit to Turkey came after debates for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. In an attempt to realize Iraqi Kurds decades-old dream to live in an independent state, Barzani, for the first time, signaled that the time has come for Kurds to hold a referendum for independence in late June and shortly thereafter he called on regional lawmakers to lay the groundwork for a referendum on independence.

Turkey has given a cautious welcome to the KRG’s dreams of becoming an independent state. In a press conference on June 30, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent ArIn said Turkey does not want to see Iraq break up, without clearly stating opposition to a Kurdish state in Iraq.

DavutoIlu also reiterated ArIn’s remarks over the territorial integrity of Iraq however, he said Turkey will continue to cooperate with the KRG in all possible fields, including the energy sector, which has resulted in a compromise between Iraq and its autonomous KRG region.The opposition also said it stands by the territorial integrity of Iraq.

Speaking on Monday, Faruk LoIoIlu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said: “The CHP favors ensuring Iraq’s territorial integrity. Just as we stand with the Palestinian people, we support the Kurds in Rojava in northern Syria”In remarks earlier to Germany’s Die Welt newspaper, Barzani also said he does not expect to receive active assistance or resistance from Turkey with regard to an independent Kurdish state.

In 2005 although 5 million Kurds secured the right to govern themselves in an autonomous region of three remote mountainous provinces after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, disputes remained unresolved over the authority to grant oil exploration rights, and over the territorial boundaries of the autonomous region. Iraqi Kurds, who long dreamed of having an independent state, have seized Kirkuk, a city that they see as their historical capital, during June’s chaos to expand their own territory, taking control of rich oil deposits.

Turkish hostages in MosulTurkish hostages in Mosul are one of the important topics that may be on the agenda of Barzani’s meetings with Turkish officials.In June, insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized 80 Turks, including Consul-General zturk YIlmaz, members of the Turkish special forces and a number of diplomats and their dependents, from the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul, in addition to truckers who were carrying fuel to a thermal power plant in Mosul.

Although the extremist group released 32 truck drivers on June 3, 49 Turkish citizens who were kidnapped when ISIL seized the Turkish Consulate General in Mosul still remain hostage in Iraq.In earlier remarks, ErdoIan said in an effort to save Turkish citizens being held in Iraq, Turkey sent a delegation to northern Iraq to free the Turks and that the delegation met with its contacts in the KRG, adding that Turkey is navigating a very delicate process with many different channels.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman