The Haji Omran border between the Kurdistan Region and Iran in January. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Talks between Erbil and Baghdad about the borders are going well with just minor disagreements remaining, according to an official, with the KRG agreeing that employees at the border crossings will be transferred to federal authority.
"There has been initial agreement between the two sides for the border crossings to be linked to the federal Commission of Border Crossings. This linkage will be done through transferring the employee list of the border crossings from being a local employee to a federal employee,” Kadhim al-Uqabi, head of the Iraqi Commission of Border Crossings, told Rudaw TV.
Since the employees would have their salaries, bonuses and other privileges paid by the Iraqi government, they would fall directly under the monitoring and administrative authority of the central government, Uqabi explained.
"The border crossings fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government,” he stressed.
Uqabi maintained that Baghdad has not overstepped its constitutional powers, explaining that while the constitution does not allow for joint administration of the crossings themselves, joint administration of customs is allowed.
"The topic of joint administration does not refer to the administration of the crossings. It refers to the customs. Based on Article 114 of the constitution, the administration of the customs will be joint between the federal and regional governments and the provinces not included in the Region,” he said.
In discussions about customs, the KRG and Iraq have agreed to adopt a single customs tariff that would be determined by the federal government, Uqabi said.
According to the official, the biggest issue between them was the different tariffs adopted by the two governments and who should receive the customs revenue.
The Iraqi side believes that since it covers the salaries and privileges of the employees at the crossings, it should be the one to receive the revenues. The KRG delegation, however, disagrees.
The negotiating parties had decided to send the matter to their respective finance ministries to propose a solution. The one month deadline set for the finance ministries has expired, however, Uqabi said.
The two sides have agreed to commission a study “on the usefulness and importance” of the Kurdistan Region’s four unofficial border crossings, recognized by Erbil but not Baghdad, he added.
The study results will be presented to the head of the federal government and then the federal Council of Ministers.
The Iraqi government closed down a number of unofficial border crossings between the Kurdistan Region and Iran.
Iraqi delegations have also visited the unofficial border crossings, Uqabi confirmed.
Regarding the airports, “Agreement has been made to deal with the airports of Sulaimani and Erbil the same way the airports of Baghdad and other airports are dealt with,” the official explained.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in his weekly press conference on Tuesday said the airports will be met only when conditions are met