BAGHDAD, Iraq--Kirkuk governor Najmaldin Karim visited Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Wednesday to discuss the outstanding petrodollar budget, unpaid to the province since 2013, and a future military operation to recapture the ISIS-held town of Hawija, south of Kirkuk.
Karim also met with other senior Iraqi officials during his two-day visit to Baghdad, including the parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri and the country’s deputy finance minister Fazil Nabi.
The governor discussed with Abadi the economic hardship his province has been going through because of the budget cut by Baghdad, and also the burden of hosting almost half a million Iraqi displaced people with little help from the Iraqi government, according to a statement issued by his office on Wednesday.
On his side, Abadi showed his “understanding” of the difficulties, the statement added.
Neither Karim’s office nor Abadi’s office provided details of any possible agreements reached over payment of revenues from Kirkuk’s oil fields.
“During the meeting the province’s situation, its security situation, providing services to its people, cooperation between the provinces, in addition to the internally displaced people issue, and a number of other issues were discussed,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Karim said that he has asked the Iraqi government to hasten an anticipated offensive to reclaim Hawija, which some say was delayed because of the Mosul operation that began in late October.
Security officials from Kirkuk have said that the presence of ISIS in Hawija is a threat to the province. As evidence they cite the deadly attack on the city last October that killed more than one hundred people, many of whom were from the security forces.
The meeting between Karim and Abadi comes as the former has increasingly criticized Baghdad for withholding Kirkuk’s budget.
In early December, Karim said that a future Kirkuk administered by Baghdad would be a disaster, after the province has been subjected to an unpaid budget since 2014, and lack of local authority over the province’s oil and police.
Karim told Rudaw that Baghdad owes Kirkuk $1.5 billion in unpaid oil revenue since 2013. Kirkuk has not received any budget for daily operations since 2014, either, he noted.
A tentative agreement in December 2014, which led to the formation of Iraq’s new cabinet, gave the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) rights to partly export oil from Kirkuk province, which is currently under Peshmerga control.
The KRG pays Kirkuk $10 million in petrodollar payments every month, Karim said. "That is 10 million more than Baghdad, because Baghdad pays zero."