Tag Archive | "Kurdistan"

The latest news from Kurdistan – security updates, reconstruction and more – brought to you by Iraq Business News

GKP Shares Rally on Announcement


By John Lee.

Shares in Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP) closed 14 percent higher on Wednesday following the company’s announcement that it is to reschedule its Interim Management Statement.

The shares had been up as much as 30 percent in the afternoon, on expectations of positive news to follow.

The company statement said:

“As a result of constructive discussions currently taking place in Erbil with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources (“MNR”), and to co-ordinate with the reporting schedules of the other key producers in the Kurdistan Region, the Company has agreed with the MNR to reschedule its Interim Management Statement, currently scheduled for Thursday 30 October, until Thursday 13 November.”

(Sources: Gulf Keystone Petroleum, Yahoo!)

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China’s First Diplomat Posted to Kurdistan


Chinese Consul General Tan Banglin this week visited the KRG Department of Foreign Relations to present his credentials as his country’s first diplomat posted to Kurdistan, and to discuss areas of cooperation between both sides.

Minister Falah Mustafa warmly welcomed Consul General Banglin and congratulated him on his new post, assuring him of the KRG’s full support for the new Chinese Consulate.

The Minister briefed the Consul General on the latest security and humanitarian developments in the Kurdistan Region and assured him that the KRG is capable of ensuring safety and security in the Region.

Consul General Banglin explained that he is very pleased to have the opportunity to work in the Kurdistan Region, expressing his country’s solidarity with and support for the Kurdistan Region in fighting against the terrorists.

Both sides discussed bilateral relations and areas of potential cooperation, expressing commitment to establish strong cultural, political, and economic ties.

They also discussed the formation of the new Iraqi government and the political process in Iraq. They agreed that the success of the new government would require genuine power sharing and adherence to the Iraqi Constitution.

Minister Mustafa pointed out that the Kurdistan Region attaches great importance to relations with members of the international community, including China, as a major global power.

He noted that China and the KRG should forge a long-term relationship based upon a foundation of mutually beneficial economic interests.

(Source: KRG)

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Video: Christians Seek Refuge in Erbil


From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Many Christian families have fled ISIL seeking refuge in other areas in Iraq.

Erbil shelters many internally displaced people, including an unfinished mall which houses 400 families.

Aidah Nouh is not the only mother whose daughter was kidnapped in Iraq.

Rights groups say there are increasing reports of families who say ISIL have taken their daughters.

Al Jazeera‘s Charles Stratford reports from Erbil:

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Weekly Security Update, 21 – 27 October 2014


By Anne-Laure Barbosa at Edinburgh International

On 25 October, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the newly-liberated town of Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to consolidate the legitimacy of the Iraqi government in their fight against ISIS. These fresh territorial gains, which also include parts of Nineveh and Kirkuk, followed sustained coalition airstrikes in support of ground troops which would otherwise hardly match the capabilities of insurgents. On 21 October, Abadi made his first visit to Tehran since taking office, which comes days after the appointment of Mohammed Ghabban, a member of the Iran-backed Badr Organisation, as interior minister. Iran’s involvement in Iraqi affairs has become increasingly apparent over the past weeks, with high-profile figures such Qassem Suleimani, the chief of Iran’s Quds Force, making rare public appearances in Iraq. Whilst Abadi built his electoral campaign around the necessity of building bridges with the Sunnis, the leader has been forced to appease the most conservative factions. Aside from nominating a Shia to the interior ministry, Abadi met with Ali al-Sistani, in a rare meeting with the most revered figure among Iraqi Shias. Whilst the Prime Minister continued to rule out any foreign ground intervention, levels of violence continued to claim hundreds of casualties across the country. The number of people killed by car and suicide bombs this month reportedly reached 590. As the festival of Ashura nears, militants could launch attacks on pilgrim routes to Karbala.

North

The most significant territorial gains made by the Kurds occurred in the northwest of Mosul. The Peshmerga, assisted by heavy coalition airstrikes, retook the strategic town of Zumar and several nearby villages on 25 October. If the Kurds manage to hold the area, Zumar could provide a basis for operations in Sinjar, which remains controlled by ISIS and had so far been inaccessible to the Peshmerga. Meanwhile, Iraqi forces moved into areas in the vicinity of the Himreen mountains, south of Kirkuk, leading to the recapture of additional territories. This operation, which is part of a larger strategy to retake Jalawla and Sadia, aims at disrupting ISIS’s supply lines into Kirkuk. Despite these strategic advances, ISIS continued to translate their freedom of movement into high-casualty attacks and public executions. A VBIED near Tuz killed at least seven civilians and injured dozens, while several Iraqi police officers arrested by ISIS were executed on 24 October. IEDs placed on roads continue to hinder counter-offensives south of Tikrit and further east in Diyala, ensuring that heavy clashes remain confined to the frontlines for the next weeks.

Central

As ISIS continues to cement their grip on Anbar, a series of suicide attacks claimed the lives of dozens of civilians in the capital. Albu Nimr, near Hit, is the latest in a string of places to fall in Anbar in recent weeks. On 23 October, ISIS took control of the Furat sub-district, west of Hit, while a coalition of tribal forces and ISF managed to repel an attack on Amiriyat al-Fallujah, south-west of Fallujah. ISIS’s extended control of the western province means that insurgents are now able to launch assaults from multiple axes, further weakening pro-government defences. Anbar’s largest air base Ain al-Assad and the Haditha Dam are now encircled to the west from the Syrian border and to the east from Hit and parts of Ramadi. Meanwhile, militants sustained their efforts on Baghdad, where a series of deadly car bombs hit several eastern districts. On 21 October, unidentified mortar shells reportedly landed inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone, which houses several government buildings. ISIS’s attacks against the capital continue to demonstrate their incapacity to launch a coordinated ground assault from neighbouring governorates, and rather rely on militant cells destabilise Baghdad.

South

As Iraq braces for the festival of Ashura, the ISF regained control of a key area south of the capital. Iraqi security forces backed by Shia militiamen pushed out ISIS militants out of the town of Jurf al-Sakhar on 26 October, following months of fighting. The town was at the hands of ISIS militants since the end of July. The recapture of Jurf al-Sakhar is critical as it lies on a road usually taken by pilgrims converging on the holy shrines of Karbala. Despite this victory however, a suicide attack in the town killed 27 Shia volunteers on 27 October, demonstrating that ISIS elements remain active in the area. South-eastern provinces continued to avoid mass-casualty attacks despite the imminence of Ashura, the lead-up to which usually witnesses high levels of violence.

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Kurdistan Faces Landmine Challenge


By Devin Morrow for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A small pile of stones in a field may look harmless to the casual observer, but they are a marker for a real danger in Iraqi Kurdistan. Land mines and other explosive remnants of war litter the country from decades of conflict.

“I don’t think mines have been used like this anywhere else in the world,” Sean Sutton, photographer and international communications manager for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), told Al-Monitor. There are an estimated 314 million square meters (121 square miles) of contaminated land across Iraqi Kurdistan, dating from the Iran-Iraq war and Saddam Hussein’s campaign against the Kurds.

When the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Authority (IKMAA) consolidated in 2012, they were able to provide the resources and funding to clear about 1 million square meters (247 acres) of contaminated land annually.

“It means we will need 300 years [to clear all the land],” Sabah Hama-Khan, the director general of the Sulaimaniyah Mine Action Center told Al-Monitor. Since then, Hama-Khan said clearance rates have increased, from 3 million square meters (741 acres) to 5 million (2 square miles) to 13 million (5 square miles) in 2013.

Clearing landmines has become a business here, with humanitarian and commercial clearance operators working with the government to reduce the size of contaminated land. But it has also become deeply politicized, since money for clearing mines relies on external sources of funding.

The central government in Baghdad has been holding back Iraqi Kurdistan’s budget for months, meaning government workers across the country are unpaid and IKMAA is still working off last year’s budget. They cannot continue clearance work next season without the funding they require to pay commercial operators.

Tim Kirby, the plans and development manager for Sterling Global Operations, a commercial clearance operator, acknowledges the lack of budget could adversely affect next season. Commercial clearance operators like Sterling bid on fields to clear based on areas the government decides are priorities. “It’s an industry and it’s a skill,” Kirby told Al-Monitor.

His company has been able to clear almost 14 million square meters (5.4 square miles) of contaminated land in the last two seasons and is working on a large minefield on the slopes of Iraqi Kurdistan’s highest mountain, in preparation for the creation of a national park.

While national budget issues do not affect humanitarian clearance operators, these organizations continue to have difficulty as well, because Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil and gas revenues put it into the bracket of a middle-income country.

This means that no matter how devastating its land mine contamination is, some international funders believe support should be prioritized toward more “developing-world” nations. Clearance for oil and gas development is not included toward humanitarian clearance obligations and is separately controlled by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Iraq signed the Mine Ban Treaty in 2007, which pledges to not use, produce, transfer or stockpile anti-personnel land mines, to clear all contaminated land within 10 years and to provide assistance to land mine survivors. However, Iraqi Kurdistan’s precarious position as a semiautonomous state means despite not signing the treaty, it is still required to meet treaty obligations.

Local government authorities are frustrated by the federal government in Baghdad’s lack of assistance in funding clearance and in providing support or assistance in getting rid of landmines, especially when so many land mines are leftover from the Iran-Iraq war and from Saddam Hussein’s regime: “In 20 years, we cannot [clear all the land],” Hama-Khan said. “Kurdistan didn’t sign, Iraq did.”

Land release — the process of clearing land contaminated with land mines — is meant to be evidence-based. “Here, most of that evidence has been lost in time,” Kirby wrote in an email. The vast majority of land mines and other explosive remnants of war being cleared by commercial and humanitarian companies were laid in the decades prior to 2003.

But the latest outbreak of conflict across northern Iraq has brought the danger of land mines and other improvised explosive devices to the forefront. The Islamic State (IS) is known for leaving elaborately constructed booby traps in the houses and villages it vacates, and the Kurdish peshmerga lack the skills they require to dispose of these dangers.

MAG has cleared hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordnance, landmines and other explosive remnants of war from sites being prepared as refugee camps in the past few months. MAG, as well as IKMAA, are working hard to spread awareness regarding these dangers to people displaced into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. “Most people know the dangers but don’t know how to behave,” Mohammad Raouf, director for Mine Risk Education with the Sulaimaniyah Mine Action Center told Al-Monitor.

This is unfortunately true across the region. Refugees and displaced persons fleeing from major conflict areas such as Kobani often have to cross heavily mined areas in their attempt to find safety — there have been up to 1,000 land mine accidents in that area alone so far, according to MAG.

Villagers on the Iranian border where Sterling Global Operations is currently clearing their large minefield have been taking the threat into their own hands for years. So despite the increasing use of land mines to the west, “I don’t think this is wasted clearance,” Kirby said. There were at least four deadly accidents in this area before clearance began last year. The tomato farmers around Haji Omaran, like many other villagers across the country, continued to defuse the landmines they found, impatient with waiting for official clearance.

Determining official numbers of casualties due to land mines is difficult as well. Police and hospitals are responsible for accident records, but they are generally believed to be underreported. This has an impact on acquiring annual humanitarian funding, as a decreased number of accidents are usually understood to mean the size of the threat has diminished.

With new evidence that in addition to the already contaminated land across the region IS is creating fresh dangers on Iraqi Kurdistan’s one cleared border with Iraq, land mines and other explosive remnants of war will continue to endanger civilians. “My goal was to save lives. … We can’t clear [all land mines] in one or two years, we need a long time,” Hama-Khan said. “We must make a plan to save [the] lives of people.”

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Weekly Security Update, 14 – 20 October 2014


By Anne-Laure Barbosa at Constellis Consulting

The Iraqi parliament’s approval of Sunni MP Khaled al-Obeidi as defense minister, and Mohammed al-Ghabban, a Shia member of the Badr Organisation, as interior minister, will provide a stronger political foundation for Abadi to counter the ISIS insurgency. Ghabban’s appointment follows weeks of negotiations and resistance from Abadi to nominate a member of the Iranian-backed Badr Organisation, best known for its powerful military wing accused of sectarian killings during the 2006-2007 civil war. While the move effectively cements Iran’s influence within the Iraqi cabinet and strengthens the government’s political response the security crisis, Abadi’s strategy to co-opt Sunni tribes and convince them to join ranks against ISIS is likely to be hindered. These political movements are also unlikely to be followed by important developments on the ground, with the security situation remaining critical in most of the North despite the US-led coalition’s continued air campaign. This was reflected in an increase of suicide attacks against ISF and Kurdish units, as well as a deadly series of car bomb attacks in Baghdad and Karbala. While ISIS continue their strategy aimed at seizing territories in the northern and central provinces, the South could witness a series of militant incursions over the next weeks, as the Shia festival of Ashura, which thousands of pilgrims are expected to celebrate, looms.

North

In line with last week’s patterns of violence, the front in Diyala remained the most volatile, with militants reportedly besieging the town of Qara Tappa, in the north-east of Baquba and only 75 miles north of Baghdad. On 20 October, insurgents managed to infiltrate defences near Qara Tappa by wearing Peshmerga uniforms, a tactic repeatedly used by ISIS to hit civilian areas. The clashes which followed killed at least seven soldiers and eight civilians, prompting the Kurds to send reinforcements from Khanaqin. This bold assault also demonstrates that ISIS are consolidating their positions in Jalawla and Sadia, and are increasingly pushing Kurdish forces on a defensive footing on this front. Further attacks were also reported on areas controlled by Kurdish units in Nineveh, where ISIS launched an assault in the Rabia district, near the Syrian border, and Yazidi areas near Sinjar. Other fighting areas included Baiji, where ISIS insurgents attempted an assault on the refinery, and areas to the south of Tikrit. Airstrikes and ISF reinforcements continued to hold back ISIS in territories to the north of Baghdad, particularly in Dhuluiya, a strategic town challenged by militant attacks. Increased insurgent activity in areas defended by the Kurds could indicate an imminent assault on Kurdish interests in Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala.

Central

The recent gains made by ISIS in Anbar appear to have impacted on the levels of confidence displayed by insurgents on the ground, while militant cells in Baghdad also ramped up their activities with an increase in car bomb attacks in the capital. On 18 October, ISIS launched a three-front offensive on the town of al-Baghdadi between Hit and Haditha. While the attack failed after tribal fighters repelled ISIS, the group reportedly seized some neighbouring areas and are now surrounding the town. Besieging villages, in order to cause food and fuel shortages for the populations to surrender, has been a tactic consistently used by ISIS, especially in areas insulated from ISF support. While the presence of the nearby Ain al-Assad military base should ensure that reinforcements are sent, these developments show that the ISF have been increasingly pushed on a defensive footing in this strategic corridor. Meanwhile, as militants continue to be prevented from launching a frontal assault on Baghdad due to an important number of troops circling the capital, ISIS elements have been increasingly relying on suicide attacks to inflict damage and casualties. Amid a series of nine deadly car bombs, a militant blew himself up outside a mosque on 20 October, killing at least 17 people. This trend should be sustained over the next weeks.

South

The most significant incidents occurred in Karbala, where an unusual series of five car bombs killed scores of civilians. These attacks point to an escalation in militant activity in the South, as the festival of Ashura, which takes place on 03 November, usually draws tens of thousands of Shia pilgrims walking to Karbala. ISIS is intent on targeting large civilian areas and pilgrimages provide an effective avenue for such high-profile operations. ISIS’s consolidated presence in neighbouring Anbar means that heightened security measures will probably be easier to counter. The lack of ground intelligence will also be compensated by the large civilian gatherings expected for the occasion. Meanwhile, the south-east continued to follow pre-established patterns, with levels of criminal activities in Basra steadily increasing.

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UN sees Improvements in KRI Human Rights


Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani today received Ivan Šimonović, the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, and his accompanying delegation.

The delegation said that compared to their previous visit back in 2011, they noticed sound improvements made by the Kurdistan Region in the areas of diplomacy, foreign relations, infrastructure, a free press, freedom of speech, human rights, sheltering, women’s rights and combating violence against women.

They added that these developments as well as Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani’s role in bringing them about should be commended. Premier Barzani’s efforts are recognized and support by the international community, they said.

UN Assistant Secretary-General Šimonović highlighted the Kurdistan Region’s significant progress in terms of legislation, and said that more work could be done with respect to human rights. UN agencies are ready to run special workshops for the related KRG bodies, he said.

He also praised the government and people of Kurdistan for accommodating and aiding the displaced, saying that despite facing difficulties such as Baghdad withholding the KRG’s budget, they have embraced the displaced and refugees regardless of their religion, sect or ethnicity.

Mr Šimonović said that the delegation visited some camps where they spoke with displaced persons, who praised the KRG for providing them with security and stability, at a time when they wish to return to their homes but cannot due to the worsening security situation in their areas. More displaced and refugees are expected to come to the Kurdistan Region due to the dire situation in Syria.

Prime Minister Barzani thanked the delegation for their visit, noting their feedback on the Kurdistan Region’s human rights situation and stressing that the KRG will support their steps. He asked the delegation to send any concerns, reports and violations in human rights to the KRG so that they can take the necessary measures to solve them.

Prime Minister Barzani reiterated that the KRG does not deny problems or failings, especially given the current circumstances. The KRG will spare no effort in solving them, and hopes to work on them with related UN agencies.

Prime Minister Barzani stressed that the KRG expects more support and serious efforts by the Iraqi government and the international community to better help the displaced and refugees, especially as winter approaches. He reiterated that despite the KRG’s limited capacity, it will continue to support the displaced. He added that the KRG will support Mr Abadi’s government and wishes to resolve all its ongoing disputes with Baghdad through dialogue.

(Source: KRG)

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Declaration of Commerciality on Khalakan Block


Range Energy Resources has announced that, on October 16, 2014, Gas Plus Khalakan (“GPK”), the sole contractor of the Khalakan Block in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, announced by press release that it has declared the Shewashan light oil discovery commercial under the terms of the Khalakan Production Sharing Contract (the “PSC”) and is preparing a Field Development Plan for submission to the Ministry of Natural Resources (“MNR”) of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The Company is a 24.95% indirect shareholder of GPK through its ownership of 49.9% of the shares of New Age Alzarooni 2 Limited (“NAAZ2″). NAAZ2 owns 50% of the shares of GPK.

Toufic Chahine, the Chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors said:

“We are pleased to hear the news although the Company still hopes for more cooperation with our joint venture partners so that we could work together to achieve the best possible result for all.”

Range has no additional information on the extent of the discovery, including the number of barrels of oil that tests show can be produced from the Shewashan-1 well. Despite the favorable arbitration award that an arbitration panel issued last May that supports the Company’s right to obtain material information as to its investments in the Khalakan Block, neither NAAZ2 nor Black Gold Khalakan Limited, the other shareholder in NAAZ2, have complied with the arbitration award and provided Range with material information regarding the operations on the Khalakan Block.

The Company will continue to pursue its rights and remedies in an effort to obtain material information on Khalakan Block operations that it can report to its shareholders.

(Source: EIN)

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