Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani chaired the 49th regular session of the Council of Ministers on Tuesday. It was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani.
Prime Minister Barzani briefed the Council about his recent visit to Baghdad and meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He said, they agreed to continue dialogue and coordination and demanded implementation of the Iraqi Council of Representatives decision to unify salaries and privileges of the families of the martyrs and Anfal victims in the Region with those of their counterparts in the federal government. They also discussed reopening the Erbil-Kirkuk road and the readiness of the KRG to export Kirkuk oil.
Regarding the new Iraqi government, Prime Minister Barzani emphasized the KRG has no veto against anyone. While protecting common interests, he said what is important to the Kurdistan Region is the new government’s programme that would help to materialize the rights and the constitutional authorities of the Kurdistan Region.
Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs Mahmood Haji Salih and Secretary of the Council of Ministers Dr. Amanj Rahim presented a report on the latest developments in the effort towards international recognition of the crimes committed by ISIS against Yezidis and other ethnic and religious communities as genocide, and on UN Security Council’s Resolution 2379 to form a team to investigate this situation.
The Council of Ministers affirmed the Security Council Resolution to be an important step towards recognizing these crimes as genocide. The Council of Ministers assigned the High Commission on Recognition of ISIS Crimes as Genocide to coordinate with the international team.
Prime Minister Barzani instructed the commission to deliver to the UN team all evidence collected during the past four years about crimes against humanity and acts of genocide directed at Yezidis, Christians, and all other communities to apply justice to perpetrators to the full extent of the law and to compensate the victims and their families.
The Council of Ministers called on the Iraqi federal government to take into account the involvement of legal practitioners, experts, and other representatives of the Kurdistan Region in the implementation of the Security Council Resolution.
The Council of Ministers re-emphasized its policy that protects religious rights and freedoms as basic principles of human rights, believes a nation’s strength lies in its diversity, and that the KRG will continue to endeavor to make the Kurdistan Region a safe place for all members of society.
2019 budget draft
The Council of Ministers also discussed the 2019 budget draft. KRG Minister of Finance and Economy, Rebaz Hamlan, presented a report on the 2019 budget draft, a process suspended since 2014 due to the financial crisis. He informed about steps being taken to estimate general revenues and expenditures in collaboration with ministries.
The Council of Ministers expressed its support and called upon all ministers to coordinate with the Ministry of Finance and Economy as well as the Ministry of Planning.
In a press conference after the meeting, Prime Minister Barzani briefed the media on latest development in the region.
Regarding reports suggesting that US Special Envoy Brett McGurk urged postponement of the September 30th Kurdistan election, Prime Minister Barzani stated, “There is nothing like that. He hasn’t discussed this issue with us. What has been discussed is whether elections will be held or not. Yes, they will be held on time. No talk of postponing elections by Mr. Brett McGurk with us has happened. Up to the moment, no political party in Kurdistan Region has asked that the September 30th elections be postponed. If I speak as the KDP, we from the Kurdistan Democratic Party emphasize that elections need to be held at their scheduled time.”
About negotiations with Baghdad on various issues, Prime Minister Barzani said, “There are some principles important in negotiations with Baghdad. It is very important for the people of Kurdistan and for all parties to jointly participate in this process. Serious talks will begin after manual vote counting is concluded and the results are officially confirmed and announced by the Iraqi Federal Court.
Regarding trade between the Kurdistan Region and Islamic Republic of Iran after the sanctions were reimposed on Iran by the US Government, Prime Minister Barzani said, “Until now, the sanctions are not clear to us. But certainly, the Kurdistan Region will take steps within the framework and position of Iraq. We asked the US and talked with Baghdad to make it clear to us. We asked and await the US to send a delegation to explain what exactly should and should not be done.”
Regarding the Rosneft agreement and any tension with Baghdad, he said, “What we have done with Rosneft is a commercial matter. Our contracts are within the framework of the Iraqi Constitution.” He also said, “Now that Baghdad can’t practically export Kirkuk oil, which is about 250 to 300 thousand barrels per day, we have told them we are ready to facilitate export to Ceyhan port where Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization, SOMO, can sell the oil and, of course, all revenue will be for all Iraq.