Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has met with his Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Saturday, just a day before he is scheduled to have a meeting with Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani.
PM Abadi stressed that the “International borders must be under the Federal Authority since it is within the exclusive powers of the Federal Authority,” a statement from his office published after the meeting read.
It is important for the oil produced in the Kurdistan Region be “handed over” to the Iraqi government so that it exports it through the Iraqi oil marketing company (SOMO), the statement explained.
Baghdad is to commit to the KRG borders as outlined in the Iraqi constitution, meaning that it respects the Kurdish rule over all areas it was under the KRG administration before 2003.
Abadi reiterated the “position of the [Iraqi] government that it is necessary to commit to the borders of the [Kurdistan] Region as stipulated by the constitution,” according to the Iraqi statement.
He also stressed on the “unity and sovereignty of Iraq”, that the committees for technical talks over the issues of the Kurdish airports and payment of salaries must continue between the two sides.
He ordered the committees to continue their work including those tasked with “reopening the airports,” after completing all procedures that would allow the “return” of Federal Authority to the airports of Erbil and Sulaimani.
The two sides discussed the latest political and security development including solving their outstanding issues, the statement added.
The KRG has not issued a statement yet regarding the meeting.
It is the first meeting between the two leaders since the Kurdish referendum was held in September, opposed by Baghdad and neighboring countries.
PM Barzani headed a Kurdish delegation to the Iraqi capital, accompanied by his deputy Qubad Talabani and chief of staff to the Kurdish presidency Fuad Hussein.
The visit comes in the backdrop of months of international pressure to jumpstart “political dialogue” by the likes of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, all members of the US-led anti-ISIS global coalition.
The two sides have already started “technical talks,” regarding disagreement over the KRG’s share of the Iraqi budget, oil, airports and border entries.
A senior Iraqi delegation visiting Erbil earlier this week agreed to present a list of recommendations to the Iraqi government for approval. It included a proposal aimed to end an ongoing Iraqi-imposed flight ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region as part of a series of punitive measures against the Kurdish vote that saw about 93 percent of the people of Kurdistan choosing to leave Iraq.
The new arrangement commits the Kurdish government to put the airports under the federal authority regulations and oversight, something Erbil argues has always been the case since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
They also discussed an oil-for-budget proposal, pending the approval of PM Abadi that will allow the KRG to receive its share of the budget in return for allowing the Iraqi government to export and sell oil produced by the Kurdish government.
PM Abadi said on Tuesday that the talks between the two sides reached a “high level” of satisfaction, while vowing to resolve all outstanding issues with Erbil, some of which he said are a century old. PM Barzani made similar remarks later in the week.
PM Barzani is expected to visit the Iranian capital later today where he is expected to meet with Iranian officials, according to Iranian and Kurdish officials.
Iran opposed the Kurdish vote, closed its borders with the Kurdistan Region for months, and helped Baghdad to bring the majority of disputed areas under its control following deadly clashes such as the oil-rich Kirkuk, dealing a blow to the KRG revenues that has since slashed by half, a move that further worsened the Kurdish financial crisis that began since early 2014 mainly because of the budget cut by Iraq at that time.
Baghdad cut the Kurdish budget in response to the KRG’s plans to export oil via Turkey’s Ceyhan port independent of Baghdad.
PM Barzani said this week that Erbil is on the right path to mend ties with Tehran, and Ankara, two countries that strongly opposed the Kurdish vote.
The visit to Baghdad comes days after the US Envoy to the war against ISIS, Brett McGurk, visited both Erbil and Baghdad to make yet another push for dialogue between the two.
The KRG has stated that it “respects” a number of rulings by the Iraqi Federal Court that in effect considered the Kurdish vote “unconstitutional” and its outcome null and void.
Erbil has also said that they are ready for political dialogue on the basis of the Iraqi constitution provided that the entire charter is implemented one by one.
Baghdad has recently taken a number of steps to mend ties including a promise to send the salaries of the Kurdish state employees for both the education and health sectors after a partial audit is complete.