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Tension in Kurdistan is again high as Kurdish protestors have been demanding for two days that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) quit, in the latest fallout from the independence referendum in September, which angered Iraq’s federal government that moved on to reclaim Kurdish-held Kirkuk and the oil fields around it.
Protesters have set fire to offices of Kurdish parties, demanding the KRG pay the wages of public servants, some of whom have not received their salaries in years.
Last week, the KRG and the Kurdistan Parliament agreed that “priority should be given to securing the salaries of the public-sector employees, conducting reforms and auditing in the payroll systems of the Region.”
According to Kurdish outlet Rudaw, casualties have been reported in Sulaymaniyah, where the protests began on Monday, after protesters clashed with riot police. In a town northwest of Sulaymaniyah, party buildings of the five biggest Kurdish parties were set on fire.
Hoshawi Babakr, a representative of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Russia, told Russian outlet Sputnik:
“Not only the offices of the KDP, but also the offices of other parties have suffered… The economic situation is complicated enough. The oil exports from Kurdistan have decreased manifold and Baghdad is not transferring any money to the autonomous region.”
At the end of November, crude oil flows from Kurdistan were still nearly half the volumes compared to the levels before the Kurds voted on September 25 to break away from Iraq. Baghdad—which never recognized the legitimacy of the referendum—moved on in October to take control over the oil-rich area around Kirkuk.
In the middle of October, Iraqi government forces seized the oil fields around Kirkuk, which had been under Kurdish control since 2014. The military maneuver knocked some 350,000 bpd of crude oil production offline, and led to oil prices spiking on concerns of unstable supply from the region. The Iraq-Kurdistan conflict was the first of a series of geopolitical events in the Middle East (the other being the Saudi purge) that pushed Brent oil prices above $60 a barrel at the end of October.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.