Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani arrived in Ankara on Monday for talks with Turkish leaders, including President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Barzani, accompanied by three ministers of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had talks with Gül and is due to meet with Erdoğan later this afternoon. The kidnapping of 49 Turks, including the Turkish consul in Mosul last month, by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is reportedly one of the main issues on the leaders’ agenda.
Reports allege that Barzani and the accompanying ministers are in Turkey to collect the Kurdish share of revenues from the sale of Iraqi oil, deposited in Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, but Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız denied such news, saying instead that the Kurdish delegation wants to turn temporary bank accounts opened for that purpose into permanent accounts. “They are coming, together with [Turkish] officials, for the opening of [permanent] accounts. We are making efforts to ensure that this becomes a sustainable business,” Yıldız told reporters.
Iraqi Kurdish website Rudaw reported late on Sunday that the Kurdish delegation in Turkey is there to make sure that the KRG can ultimately be paid for its oil sales through Turkey. “The purpose behind the visit regards a bank account for Kurdish oil revenue, which has been sold through Turkey, and transferring the account to the Kurdistan region,” Rebar Muhammad, the KRG minister of finance, was quoted as saying by Rudaw. Muhammad himself is part of the delegation, which also includes Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani and Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami.
The Rudaw report said the KRG has at least $93 million in its account at Halkbank, but it has been unable to withdraw its earnings from the sale of oil exported via a new pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. This is because the Turkish government is still waiting for the resolution of a dispute between the KRG and the Iraqi central government on how to share revenue from the sale of northern Iraqi oil.
Yıldız said Turkey was not yet studying formulas that would open the way for the Kurds to take their share from the entire Iraqi oil sale. “We are talking about not only the northern Iraqi oil but also about Baghdad’s oil. The issue of splitting the northern Iraqi oil is not yet on our agenda; this is an issue to be taken up in the future. But, I have to say, we are working on [arrangements] concerning the rights of both Arbil [the KRG capital] and Baghdad,” Yıldız said.