KRG PM, Iraqi Oil Minister Shake Hands to Further Develop Iraq Oilfields

Prime Minister Nechiravan Barzani and Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani met Monday in the Kurdistan Region to discuss issues surrounding oil and Iraq's national oil policy.

The Kurdistan Region's Prime Minister Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister Omer Fattah and Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami met the Iraqi Oil Minister before holding a joint press conference where they told reporters they had reached agreement on "the basic principle that oil remains for all the Iraqi people." They said they also agreed to take steps to link two oilfields in the Kurdistan Region to Iraq's northern pipeline and to continue talks.

Prime Minister Barzani said, "The Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] still believes that all differences can be resolved through dialogue and consultation. Today's meeting between the KRG and Minister al-Shahristani was fruitful and should be seen as an important step in a continuous process. We hope that such dialogue continues and that the Iraqi Council of Representatives can pass a national oil law that benefits and respects the federal rights of all Iraqis."

When asked about a national oil law, Mr al-Shahristani said, "The Iraqi Council of Representatives has been unable to pass a national oil and gas law because of a lack of consensus among the political parties." He later added, "The February 2007 draft law will be a good base for a hydrocarbon law in Iraq which will benefit Iraqis across the country."

Mr Barzani and Mr al-Shahristani announced that both sides would prepare for the future joining of two oilfields, Tawke and Taqtaq in the Kurdistan Region, to the main northern export pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. They stated however that further talks would be needed before national export licenses would be assigned to the fields.

The visiting minister said that a top priority was the development of the Khurmala oilfield, located south of Erbil city, in order to supply a refinery in the Erbil governorate. The two sides agreed that the KRG and Baghdad will continue to cooperate in this regard. Prime Minister Barzani said, "There was a problem in the past regarding this field and today we have solved it."

Prime Minister Barzani ended the news conference by answering unfounded allegations. He said, "Oil belongs to all the people of Iraq and we in the Kurdistan Region have never secretly sold oil outside of Iraq's borders."