Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani (L) and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (R) register for the biometric payroll system for state employees announced in 2016. File Photo: KRG
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has responded to recent statements from the Iraqi prime minister. KRG spokesperson said the government is unaware of what data record of its state employees the Iraqi government claims to be auditing and condemned the ongoing flight ban.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that his government had taken initial steps to pay KRG public servants. He said that Iraq’s auditing department has been assigned to this matter, adding that a special committee from his office has the task of coordinating with related KRG institutions.
KRG spokesperson Safeen Dizayee said on Wednesday that Baghdad has not yet asked for the regional government’s list of state employees.
“That is why we don’t know what those lists are the government of Mr Abadi claims to be auditing,” Dizayee said.
He said Baghdad has asserted on many occasions that they are ready to pay the salaries, but failed to implement any action.
“The people of Kurdistan know by now that such promises are mere remarks to the media and no more,” he stated.
The KRG announced in October that it was prepared to deliver its biometric record of all employees to Baghdad. According to that record, the KRG has 1.2 million people on its payroll.
Baghdad has questioned the number and insisted that an audit must be done before it will pay out any funds.
Dizayee also addressed the issue of Iraq’s ban on international flights to the Kurdistan Region, describing it as discriminatory and stripping the Kurdish population of their right to free movement.
Abadi said on Tuesday that while there is a flight ban, it does not affect ordinary citizens as they can still travel abroad through other Iraqi airports. He also said that Iraq must have exclusive authority over international entry points, including the two Kurdish airports.
The KRG official said the Iraqi constitution stipulated that the administration of border areas is not exclusive to the federal authority, but must be jointly run by both Iraq and the KRG. He said they are ready to coordinate and cooperate with Baghdad for joint administration.
French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed last week, as he received a KRG delegation headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, that the Kurds had expressed their readiness to cooperate with Baghdad over the border issue.
PM Barzani said they are ready, but it must be in light of the Iraqi constitution.
Following the flight ban that came in effect in late September, people of the Kurdistan Region wanting to travel internationally must either route through Baghdad airport or go overland to Turkey and then take a flight. In either case it costs travelers more time and money.
Dizayee said that Abadi spends a lot of time talking about the constitution and the rights of the Kurdish citizens, but people in Baghdad and Najaf have the right travel abroad from their own cities while the same rights have been denied to those in the Kurdistan Region.
He describe the flight ban as “collective punishment” that affects all sectors of the Kurdish community, including patients and wounded Peshmerga who need treatment outside the country.
Dizayee also responded to Abadi’s questioning whether the KRG is a “legitimate” entity that can represent the Kurdistan Region and has any authority over “armed groups” in KRG-controlled areas.
Dizayee said the KRG takes its mandate from the Kurdistan Region parliament and does not need the blessing of any other institution.
The Kurdistan Region parliament in late October extended its current term for eight months after general elections scheduled for November 1 were postponed.
Dizayee concluded that the KRG has said many times that it is prepared for dialogue with Baghdad, but it is the Iraqi government that has not shown interest.
The KRG has offered to freeze the results of the vote on independence that triggered Iraq’s punitive measures and Kurdish leaders have stated they respect the rulings of the Iraq Federal Court that cancelled the vote.
Abadi, however, said Tuesday that the KRG has yet to take certain steps before talks can begin that will allow his government to impose federal authority over international borders and the deployment of Iraqi forces to the disputed areas.