“The Iraqi government also calls for handing over all the border crossings, including Peshkhabour [Faysh Khabur] and Ibrahim Khalil. Finally, the Iraqi government also is not willing to pay the KRG’s $5.5 billion in debts — $4 billion to Turkey and $1.5 billion to [Russian gas company] Gazprom. The KRG must pay its debts,” the source said.
The KRG — in particular, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) side — is unlikely to hand over the Peshkhabour border crossing willingly and allow Iraqi forces to deploy there, as this area has become the lifeline of KDP financing and reaching the outside world. The KDP also uses the crossing as leverage against its main rivals, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Rojava administration (the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria).
Currently, the KRG is struggling just to pay its public servants, who haven’t yet received their September salaries. At a Dec. 11 meeting, the KRG Cabinet concluded the government can only pay public servants half their salaries every 60 days. The KRG also cannot pay its debts to Turkey and Russia.
As relations between Erbil and Baghdad have always been delicate, any simple disagreement can quickly become complicated. For example, in a Dec. 9 speech, Abadi praised Iraqi forces’ victory over the Islamic State but avoided mentioning the sacrifices of the Kurdistan peshmerga forces — earning him so much criticism that the speech was later amended to include the peshmerga.
It seems that despite pressure from the United Nations, the United States and the EU on the Iraqi government and the KRG, Erbil-Baghdad negotiations are unlikely to happen until Iraqi elections are held in May. And, of course, while commencing negotiations and constructive dialogue is incredibly complicated, reaching an agreement on prolonged disputes and issues will be even more so.