Iraqi Kurdish Delegation Visits Baghdad for Talks

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Iraqi Kurdistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani warned earlier this month that a drop in oil prices could drown the region in an economic "tsunami" and said it could hamper the war against Daesh. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

ERBIL, Iraq, Jan 31 – A senior delegation from Iraq’s Kurdish north held talks in Baghdad with the government on Sunday, a spokesman said, after weeks of warnings from officials in the autonomous region that it faced an economic collapse.

Both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) rely heavily on oil export revenue and have been hit hard by the global slump in crude prices.

Relations between the two sides have been strained in recent years by disputes over the budget and revenue sharing.

The delegation led by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other senior Iraqi government officials.

KRG spokesman Safeen Dizayee, who is part of the delegation, said “a wide range of issues, including security, finance, political and military” were on the agenda.

Earlier this month, the KRG deputy prime minister said the region was in danger of being drowned by an economic “tsunami”.

Kurdistan enjoyed an economic boom in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, receiving a share of the revenue from Iraq’s rising oil exports.

But Baghdad cut funding to the region in 2014 after the Kurds built their own pipeline to Turkey and began exporting oil without federal government approval in pursuit of economic independence.

The KRG has since increased independent oil sales to more than 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), but with depresses prices and a bloated public payroll is now five months in arrears and deeply in debt.

Kurdish Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani warned earlier this month the region was in danger of being drowned by an economic “tsunami” as oil prices dropped below $30 per barrel and said it could harm the war effort against Daesh.

Baghdad has projected a budget deficit of 24 trillion dinars for 2016.

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