Barzani talks politics, oil revenue in Ankara

Barzani talks politics, oil revenue in Ankara

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Barzani talks politics, oil revenue in Ankara

Turkish President Abdullah Gül (L) shakes hands with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani during their meeting in Ankara. DHA Photo

As threats mount to the security of both sides, the leaders of Turkey and Iraq’s Kurdistan region gathered in Ankara on July 14, with the agenda dominated by the search for a solution to the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) financial crisis due to escalating political and security threats.

KRG President Masoud Barzani was in Ankara for talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, amid the ongoing regional crisis due to growing jihadist activity. Barzani was also motivated to find a formula to receive revenues from the sale of northern Iraqi oil.

The hot topic of the talks with Barzani was Iraq’s ongoing political process, as the country struggles to form a new government, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Despite the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants gaining ground north of Baghdad, the prospects for forming an urgent government to counter the militant offensive appear dim due to seemingly intractable differences over key appointments and other issues. Kurdish ministers have boycotted participation in the Iraqi government following Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s accusation that Kurds are harboring terrorist leaders in KRG capital Arbil.

In an interview earlier this month, Barzani said Iraq’s Kurds would hold an independence referendum within months, adding that the time was right for a vote as Iraq was already effectively divided by ISIL’s actions in Iraq. 

However, Turkey sticks to its earlier position on the issue of the maintenance of Iraq’s territorial integrity, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News prior to the July 14 meetings. 

Financial support to be discussed

As ties between the Baghdad government and Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region hit new lows, Iraqi Kurds are increasingly asking Ankara for both financial and logistic support, and the Turkish official said the urgent needs of the Iraqi Kurds, including financial requirements, would be discussed during the meetings.

Since early 2014, Turkey and Iraqi Kurds have been in talks to find a solution to the KRG’s financial problems, which have been exacerbated by the political and security crises in Iraq. Ankara has been providing financial help since February.

Foreign Minister Davutoğlu has repeatedly stated that the salaries of KRG officials have not be paid by the central government for months.

Moreover, in a recent visit to Ankara, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani asked Turkey for additional sales of refined oil, in an attempt to ease the shortages after ISIL militants seized a number of oil refineries in northern Iraq. Turkey then started to send to the KRG an additional 4,000 tons of refined oil.

The Iraqi Kurdish delegation - including KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami, KRG Finance Minister Rebar Muhammad, KRG Deputy Prime Minister Kubat Talabani - arrived in Ankara on July 13 for two days of talks with Turkish officials, trying to seek a formula in which the oil revenues of Iraqi Kurds can be accessed.

One of the possible options is for the financial assistance provided by Turkey to the KRG to be collected from Iraqi Kurds’ share of revenues in Halkbank.

Iraqi Kurdish oil revenues amounting to $93 million are located in a Halkbank account. However, the KRG has not been able to withdraw earnings from the sale of oil exported via a new pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan as the Turkish government is waiting for an agreement between Arbil and Baghdad over how to divide the revenue.

“The purpose behind the visit is related to a bank account for Kurdish oil revenue, which has been sold through Turkey, and transferring the money in this account into the Kurdistan Region,” Muhammad was quoted as saying by Rudaw over the weekend ahead of the visit.

However, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said July 14 that the issue of splitting northern Iraqi oil was not yet on Turkey’s agenda, and that it would be taken up in the future with the central government in Baghdad.

However, Yıldız did confirm that the Kurdish delegation wanted to turn temporary Halkbank accounts into permanent accounts.

‘No service for Kurds from others’

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking at a rally in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa late on July 13, accused the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş is also running for the presidency, of “hypocrisy” over the rights of Kurds.

“Don’t be deceived by their plots. They say, ‘We are the representative of Kurds.’ Go away. What service have you provided for my citizens, for my Kurdish brothers and sisters? What have you offered as a service other than tears?” Erdoğan said.

“What are they doing now? They are imposing a lynch through social media against artists who attended our vision meeting,” he added, referring to the angry reactions against celebrities who attended a meeting on July 11, during which Erdoğan revealed his “vision document” for the presidential race, the first round of which will be held Aug. 10.

“This [main opposition Republican People’s Party] CHP, this HDP and this [Nationalist Movement Party] MHP are all together. Whether they like it or not, the new Turkey will be and is being built. They will digest it. They will eventually obey the national will and the rule of the nation in every field,” Erdoğan said.

Reiterating a previous argument of his, the prime minister associated opposition parties with those who lynched a Kurdish singer, Ahmet Kaya, an iconic Kurdish musician who died 14 years ago in forced exile after being demonized in Turkey for announcing that he would include a Kurdish song in a new album.