Oil and Gas Law Key to Resolving Issues Between Baghdad, Erbil

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The Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s minister of natural resources denies accusations from Baghdad that the region is smuggling oil.

Iraqi Kurdistan Region Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami said that the shares of oil companies operating in the region have exceeded $3.5 billion. He stressed the importance of the oil and gas law's enactment, and estimated that oil reserves in the three Kurdish governorates are at more than 45 billion barrels.

In an interview with Al-Hayat, Hawrami said that the negotiations with Baghdad will be in accordance with the law, which determines the Kurdistan region’s financial share of federal revenues. “The provincial government informed Baghdad at the beginning of this year that the investing companies requested more than $3.5 billion [in shares], and they are constitutionally entitled to this,” he said.  

He denied Baghdad’s accusations that the region is exporting crude oil without coordinating with Baghdad, adding, “This is taking place under an agreement with Baghdad to export our production, on the condition that 50% of proceeds is deducted to pay companies’ dues, while the other 50% is kept by the state treasury. However, all the proceeds were seized.”

He denied rumors of smuggling, saying, “There is no oil smuggling, we do not accept such cheap accusations. What was claimed is a legal entitlement and it came because we forbid them from grabbing it.” He criticized the current management of the country's imports, which “still follows the methods of the former regime and include laws that are imposed on us by force from the federal government.”

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Hawrami demanded that the central government provide the region with the 55 million barrels of fuel “that we did not receive from 2004 to 2012, and that are needed for domestic consumption.”

Hawrami stressed the need to enact the oil and gas law, and said, “The law, which we are seeking to pass according to the constitution, will be the key for all the contentious issues between the two sides in the oil sector.”

During a joint news conference with Kurdistan Region of Iraq President Massoud Barzani on Sunday, July 7, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, “There are no disputes between the federal government and the provincial government, it is merely a divergence in views regarding the Constitution.” Hawrami continued, “Most of the differences are political and they arise from the non-application of the Constitution in relation to the distribution of proceeds.”

Article 112 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates: "The federal government with the producing governorates and regional governments shall undertake the management of oil and gas extracted from current fields provided that it distributes oil and gas revenues in a fair manner in proportion to the population distribution in all parts of the country with a set allotment for a set time for the damaged regions."

The article stresses, “The federal government, with the producing governorates and regional governments, shall undertake the management of oil and gas extracted from current fields provided that it distributes oil and gas revenues in a fair manner in proportion to the population distribution in all parts of the country with a set allotment for a set time for the damaged regions.”

Hawrami downplayed the importance of the pressure exerted by Baghdad on oil companies operating in the region to discourage them from implementing the contracts. “This does not affect the work of these companies and they are ready to continue despite the delay in payment of their dues,” he added.

“Crude oil reserves in the Kurdistan region, excluding the disputed areas, are at 45 billion barrels, and possibly even more. Yet the preliminary gas estimates are at 100 or 200 trillion cubic meters,” he said. Concerning his ministry’s plans to increase production in the coming period, he said, “The target production for 2015 is 1 million barrels per day, reaching 2 million barrels per day in 2019. As for the refining of crude oil and the production of hydrocarbons, they are estimated to increase to 150,000 barrels per day, and could reach up to 250,000.”

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