Iraqi government aims to punish Kurdistan in fight over oil

Published February 24th, 2014 - 06:33 GMT
Kurdistan became a semi-autonomous region in 1970. (AFP/File)
Kurdistan became a semi-autonomous region in 1970. (AFP/File)

Iraq’s Kurdistan has accused the central government in Baghdad of blocking wages for Kurdish employees over the region’s oil exports via Turkey, Press TV reports.

Baghdad is withholding wages for hundreds of thousands of Kurdish employees in an attempt to apparently punish the semi-autonomous Kurdish region over its controversial oil exports.

“There is this mindset and now a continuation of this mindset whereby the central government does not believe in the existence of Kurdistan region. If we look back their opposition was contained to the parliament and the government but now we see that their opposition is directly towards the income of the people, which is the wages,” said Kurdish MP Umed Khoshnaw from the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Last week, Iraq's Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Roj Nuri Shawais called on Kurdish ministers in the Iraqi cabinet to resign if Baghdad refused to solve the problem, according to Press TV.

“If the Kurdish ministers would not withdraw from Baghdad while the salaries are not sent to Kurdistan employees, then what's the job of Kurdish employees in Baghdad and what should they do?” Shawais asked.

The regional government says it has had to cut costs and even salaries of senior officials to help pay for monthly wages worth of more than $700 million.

Iraqi MPs in Baghdad said the money was being withheld due to Kurdistan’s independent oil exports through Turkey, adding, Kurdistan did not contribute enough oil to Iraq’s supply.

“The government has no alternative but to apply the law and cut that amount of money from the region’s 17-percent share of the budget. But if the regional government starts sending enough oil… then I believe that the central government will pay all of the money straight away,” said Iraqi lawmaker Haitham Ramadan from the State of Law Coalition.

There are reports that Kurdistan could retaliate by cutting off the water supply to southern Iraq.

Iraqi officials, however, say Kurdish workers should pressure the regional government to export oil with agreement from the central government.

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