Iraq's dispute with Kurdistan an 'internal
affair': Hussain al-Shahristani
April 27, 2012
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani
speaks during an interview with Reuters in central
London April 18, 2012.
See Related Links
WASHINGTON, — A simmering dispute between
Iraq's central government and the semi-autonomous
region of Kurdistan is an internal affair, a top
Baghdad official said on Thursday, in an implicit
rebuff of U.S. efforts to broker a compromise
between the two sides.
"Of course there is American interest and goodwill
to facilitate an understanding," said Iraqi Deputy
Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani.
"But it was clear to all sides that any internal
matter has to be discussed by Iraqis inside Iraq,"
he told reporters after meeting with U.S. Vice
President Joe Biden.
Washington is anxious to ease a political crisis
that erupted after U.S. troops left Iraq last year,
which analysts fear could strain the country's unity
if it escalates further.
Oil is at the heart of the broad dispute between
Kurdistan in northern Iraq and the central
government, which worsened when the Kurds stopped
oil exports to Baghdad earlier this month in protest
Shahristani said no progress had been made in
lifting the Kurdish oil export embargo.
"They were supposed to be sending a delegation to
Baghdad, which has not come, to discuss this issue,"
Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud
Barzani recently met Biden in Washington and has
also visited Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan,www.ekurd.net
who has publicly chided Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki for stoking the conflict.
This blunt break with traditional diplomacy drew
sharp words from Baghdad, which Shahristani echoed
"We regret that we hear some of the comments that
have been coming from Ankara," he said. "We do not
appreciate comments from others, or interference in
our internal affairs."
However, Shahristani said he did not expect the
dispute to harm trade, including oil exports,
between the two neighbours. Iraq is Turkey's
second-largest trading partner with trade of $12
billion last year.
In addition, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a
powerful broker in the country's coalition
government, visited Kurdistan on Thursday in an
effort to lower tensions.
Shahristani said bilateral talks were welcome, "but
they are not a substitute for a national conference,
where all parties are present."
The White House, concerned by high U.S. gasoline
prices in an election year, wants to do everything
possible to boost the supply of oil on to world
Biden's office said the vice president had
"reaffirmed our commitment to work with Iraqi
leaders across the spectrum to support the continued
development of Iraq's energy sector."
Iraq sits atop some of the largest oil reserves in
the world and has ambitious plans to lift
But development has been clouded by tension between
Baghdad and the Kurds, who have signed exploration
deals with several foreign oil companies, including
U.S. oil major Exxon Mobile, which are deemed
illegal by the central government.
Shahristani said the issue of Exxon Mobile had not
been raised during the talks with Biden on Thursday.
By Alister Bull
Copyright ©, respective author or news agency,
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the
content of news information on this page