Reconciliation between Baghdad and Irbil in the aftermath of the September independence referendum has been going at a snail’s pace. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi still claims the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has not cancelled the results of the vote, while making various demands about its oil industry, air ports, border crossings, budget, etc. Recently, the central government made some small concessions.
Baghdad ended its sanctions on banks in Kurdistan and agreed to pay the salaries of two Kurdish ministries. On January 29, parliament voted to end the ban on banks doing business in the KRG. That same day, Baghdad sent $210 million to the KRG Finance Ministry to pay for the workers at the Kurdish Health and Education Ministries. Those two were audited by central government authorities. These were the first concessions made by Abadi since the confrontation between the two started in October.
There is still a plethora of other issues that are unresolved. In the middle of the month for example, KRG Premier Nechirvan Barzani met with Abadi in Baghdad. Abadi repeated his demands that all the Kurdish border crossings be under federal control, and the region’s oil exports go through the State Organization for Marking of Oil (SOMO). KRG airports are also supposed to come under the control of the Civil Aviation Authority and Baghdad wants to cut the region’s share of the budget among other differences. The premier has been slow to solve these problems because he has the upper hand. The Kurds have absolutely no leverage, and it appears that Abadi will drag the issue out at least until after the May elections since he can play politics with it.
eKurd, “Iraqi parliament lifted the sanctions against banks in Kurdistan: TV,” 1/30/18
- “Kurdistan, Baghdad agree to jointly manage airports, border crossings: minister,” 1/15/18
Rudaw, “Erbil, Baghdad teams agree on proposal to pay a month salary for some employees,” 1/17/18
- “Erbil, Baghdad to hammer out agreement that will end flight ban, statement,” 1/13/18
- “Iraq sends $20 million to Kurdistan for salaries,” 1/29/18
- “Kurdish oil exports must come under Iraqi control, Abadi tells PM Barzani in Baghdad,” 1/20/18
- “Kurdish parties won’t vote on Iraqi budget bill,” 1/16/18