Speech by KRG Prime Minister 
Nechirvan Barzani 
at the ceremony celebrating the start of Kurdistan Region oil exports 

Erbil, 1 June 2009 

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, 

Good day and welcome to you all. On behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the people of the Kurdistan Region, I welcome you all to this important event in our modern history. I would very much like to welcome H.E. President Talabani, H.E. President Barzani, and all of the distinguished guests that have joined us here today to participate in this event. 

I want to extend my congratulations to all those who have made this day possible, including the officials of the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources, led by Dr Ashti Hawrami, and also the oil companies that have cooperated with us, particularly those whose contribution on this day – crude oil – is about to enter the Iraqi pipeline. 

This is a moment of celebration and reflection. We are very pleased to share this moment with our friends from abroad, our fellow citizens and partners from the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq who are present with us today, and everyone following our progress in the media. In another country, today’s event would be only a typical economic and technical achievement. But for the people of the Kurdistan Region, it marks a dramatic departure from our recent past. 

No one should doubt that what the KRG has done is in the best interests of Iraq. We are contributing to a better and more stable future for Iraq. Today we want to take a step forward for the Kurdistan Region and for all of Iraq. 

Previous regimes in Iraq exploited the country’s natural resources without checks and balances on their power. Such monopolistic control of the energy sector is extremely dangerous. The people of the Kurdistan Region suffered terribly from the actions of the past regimes – promises of peace were replaced by systematic destruction, violence and genocide. 

Unbalanced power is inherently self-destructive. Such consolidated power, combined with tremendous oil revenues, enabled a regime to terrorize the very people it was meant to serve. 

Instead of investing in the peace, prosperity and welfare of its people, the Ba’ath regime invested in chemical weapons. These weapons were unleashed on the people of the Kurdistan Region, on the people of Iraq, and on the citizens of one of our neighbouring countries. 

We are determined that these policies will never again be contemplated in Iraq, and certainly never implemented. 

The revenues from today’s historic export will - and must - be handled fairly and transparently. And oil contractors shall and must be rewarded for their contribution, according to their entitlements. 

We are determined to remember our past and at the same time focus on the peace, prosperity and well being of our citizens now and in the future. Within the powers granted to the Kurdistan Region, our Parliament passed the Kurdistan Oil and Gas Law in August 2007, granting the KRG Ministry of Natural Resources the authority to negotiate and agree to long-term oil contracts. 

The people of the Kurdistan Region have always sought democracy, fairness, tolerance and forgiveness, and for these objectives we look to the Iraqi Constitution for guidance. 

Thousands of people are waiting patiently, under terrible conditions, for the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. The Constitution guarantees them the right of return. Our message is loud and clear: we want justice for the people of Kirkuk and the disputed territories of the Kurdistan Region. 

In December 2005, four out of five voters endorsed Iraq’s Constitution. This document became the foundation of a new, democratic and federal Iraq, and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. This Constitution is a product of the collective desire – of all Iraqis – to prevent a repetition of past atrocities while providing a new opportunity to improve the lives of all our citizens in Iraq. 

We are happy to be part of a federal Iraq within a democratic constitutional framework. When we open these valves today, the Kurdistan Region will be earning hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for all the people of this country. 

We expect federal authorities to be fair and to abide by the Constitution. At the same time, we in the Kurdistan Region also bear the responsibility of respecting and implementing the Constitution. 

After the liberation of Iraq and the negotiation of the Constitution, the aspirations and expectations of the citizens of the Kurdistan Region grew considerably. Citizens expected better services, increased political freedom and tangible improvements in their daily lives. These expectations are legitimate and demand the attention of the KRG. 

In response to these demands, the KRG accelerated its plans to encourage inward investment in the Region, build infrastructure, improve the delivery of essential services, strengthen our emerging democratic institutions, build confidence among political parties, enact regional laws, train our law enforcement authorities and invest in our human resources through capacity-building programmes in a variety of fields. 

Due to a number of factors, we cannot claim to have met each and every demand of our people. However, we are very proud of what we have achieved so far, and we will continue. 

I have no doubt that the inward investment climate in Iraq would have been much more favourable had we enacted a federal oil and gas law in 2007, and citizens throughout Iraq would have benefited. 

The lack of political will on one hand, and outright political interference on the other, prevented the federal hydrocarbons draft law of February 2007 from being completed and reaching the Council of Representatives. The same problem halted the draft revenue sharing law of May 2007, which is of equal importance. In fact, we have failed our Constitution and our citizens in two fundamental areas: 

First, the Constitution demands a modern law by which the oil industry should attract investment and boost oil production. Secondly, the Constitution demands a revenue sharing law based on fairness and supervised by a constitutional committee. We still do not have either of these vital laws. We still depend on a system of budget allocation, rather than a constitutionally required revenue sharing mechanism. 

In the past few years, the people of Kurdistan have suffered considerably from repeated delays in budget distribution. We have no doubt that these delays are caused by political calculations rather than technical or administrative problems. 

With a revenue sharing law in place, our regional government would have received its fair share on time. We would now have been in a better position to deliver much needed services to our citizens in the Kurdistan Region. Indeed, all the governorates of Iraq would have been in a much better position to provide the services that their citizens need throughout Iraq. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Upon the liberation of Iraq, we voluntarily cooperated in the reconstruction of the Iraqi government and state. We were the first among Iraqis to provide regular military forces during that difficult period of transition. Because we believe in the future of Iraq, we actively participated in the political negotiations that led to the endorsement of our Constitution. We will all feel more secure in a federal, democratic Iraq that promotes peace, stability and prosperity for its people. 

Fortunately, we possess abundant natural resources to share if we put our efforts together. We must use these resources both effectively and in a timely manner for the benefit of our people and all the people of Iraq. 

With that ambition and spirit in mind, we signed contracts with international oil companies in order to bring capital, technology, know-how and experience to our Region and to all of Iraq. We believe in the importance of openness, cross-border trade and foreign investment. We will only leave our past behind when we constructively focus on our future. 

It is important to judge people not by what they say, but by what they do. Five years ago we promised to share our energy resources with Iraq. Today our actions and deeds speak for our words and promises. 

In order to develop, the economy of Iraq must be able to compete internationally and face contemporary challenges. We have moved swiftly from exploration to production and export. We are proud to contribute to Iraq’s increased production and revenues. In reality, revenue sharing will bind us together more than any political slogan. 

We strongly believe that the era of threats and punishment is over. Without mutual respect and dialogue among Iraq’s diverse constituencies, the country will never recover from it catastrophic past. 

In recent years, the Kurdistan Region has been rebuilding and developing, economically and politically, through practical compromises. We hope to see the same spirit of negotiation throughout Iraq. 

Dear guests, 

We are very happy to see that so many of you have decided to celebrate this historic moment with us. 

We are determined to use our natural resources in a constructive manner for the benefit of all Iraqi citizens, and to create a better future for ourselves and our neighbours, as well as for future generations. 

In terms of budgetary expenditures, we believe that regional and local representatives are better equipped to understand the needs of their citizens and deliver services to meet these demands. 

Economic cooperation within Iraq and across its borders will lay the foundation for a brighter collective future, and help to break the cycle of violence that has haunted Iraq for too long. 

We in the KRG believe that all of Iraq’s natural resources should be able reach the international market. 

I would like, on this historic day, to invite everyone to join me in welcoming H.E. President Jalal Talabani and H.E. President Masoud Barzani to open the valves, allowing the oil to flow, for the benefit of every citizen in the Kurdistan Region and throughout Iraq. 

Thank you very much, and welcome to you all. 


As per KRG's agreement with the Iraqi government and under the 2015 Budget Law


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