Official Sources Say Iraqi Parliament May Ratify Oil and Gas Law
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The Kurds and the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki have been at odds over the details of the oil and gas law for years.
But now there are new hopes that the conflicting factions might be close to an agreement that would result in a carbohydrate law.
A recent non-finalized deal between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments, along with a meeting between Maliki and parliament speaker Osama Nujaifi over the oil law, have rekindled hopes that a resolution might be in sight.
The deal between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government includes a provision that Baghdad will pay around $2 billion to foreign oil firms operating in Kurdistan as the cost of their operations.
The agreement also entails that the Iraqi government, in cooperation with regional and provincial governments in Iraq, will devise the oil policy for the country.
In a recent session of Iraqi Parliament, Nujaifi called on all stakeholders to put aside their differences and agree on the law, otherwise it will “create crisis between the factions and negatively reflect on the country’s economy.”
Bayazid Hassan, a Kurdish member of the oil and gas committee in Iraqi Parliament, told Rudaw that there are different opinions as to how the head of the federal oil and gas council should be appointed. Some say the prime minister should be given the power to do so, and others demand that parliament should approve the head of the council.
Among those proposed to sit on the council are the Iraqi ministers of oil, finance and planning as well as representatives from the provinces that produce oil. That means there will be only one representative from the Kurdistan Region on the council.
“The central government wants to possess all the oil and gas powers but the Kurdistan Region and provinces want to have some authority in running the oil sector because Iraq is a federal country,” said Hassan.
In previous agreements regarding an oil law, in 2007 and 2011, the federal oil and gas council was to review the oil contracts the KRG signed with international firms. But the Kurds and the Iraqiya List -- a mostly Sunni coalition -- demand that a committee with the chairperson from the oil and gas committee, the KRG minister of natural resources minister and Iraqi oil minister undertake the task of reviewing the contracts.
Iraq’s constitution states that the KRG has the right to control the oil and gas fields in areas under its control that were discovered after 2003. The Kurds have signed around 50 deals with foreign firms so far.
But Baghdad has objected to the terms of the deals and accused the KRG of giving large shares to foreign companies. The disputes have hampered the passage of an oil and gas law in Iraqi Parliament.
Furat Share’a, a Shia MP from the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, argues that the oil and gas issue has been politicized. He says out of 57 provisions, there only disputes over four.
“Political interests have overshadowed economic and social issues,” he told Rudaw.
Share’a added, “The problems between the central government and the Kurdistan Region are political but have a technical cover wrapped around them.”
Some see the current efforts to ratify the oil law as a strategy by Maliki for a future election campaign.
Furthermore, the fact that major international oil firms, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, have decided to invest in Kurdistan’s oil sector has prompted the central government to show more flexibility.
A source close to the presidency of Iraqi Parliament told Rudaw that Maliki and Nujaifi have reached an agreement to accept the 2007 draft law on oil and gas “which will be satisfying to the Iraqiya List and the Kurdistan Region as well.”