Iraq's deputy prime minister has said that oil contracts signed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) must be rewritten, and that recent government payments to international producers in the region in no way validate the contracts, according to a report from Reuters.
"The contracts as they stand will have to be presented to the government and brought into line with our other contracts in the country," Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy prime minister for energy, told the news agency at an energy conference in Oslo, Norway.
Shahristani's remarks suggest the central government is sticking to a hard line in talks on a national oil law; asked if Kurdistan's contracts were illegal, Shahristani replied as he has before: "Yes, as far as the Iraqi government is concerned those contracts are not binding with Iraq."
Since August a parliamentary committee has been debating a draft national hydrocarbon law, or 'oil law', approved by the Iraqi cabinet, that would centralise control of oilfields in Baghdad.
DNO spokesman Tom Bratlie commented:
"Our contracts are legal -- they are entered into with the Kurdish regional government -- but we do not want to participate in the political debate in Iraq. We have of course seen that there are different views on this question between Baghdad and Erbil."
While the KRG contracts grant the companies a share of oil profits, Shahristani has said he favours leaner "service contracts" like those imposed in southern Iraq.
He said he could not predict when a final draft of the national oil law would be sent to the full parliament.
"What the KRG had asked the Iraq government is to pay them (companies) for the actual capital that was invested in drilling wells and making service facilities that are the property of Iraq," Shahristani said.
"These are only the capital expenses that the KRG has spent on developing these fields. As far as we are concerned they have nothing to do with the contracts, or with the companies."
DNO, which has exported as much as 70,000 barrels a day from Kurdistan since February, received $60 million from the Kurdish government last month and $104 million in June without, according to the Reuters report, receiving an explicit explanation of what the money was for.
The payments were presented as "cash advances" in an interim arrangement, Bratlie said.
"There has been some challenge with regards to how to book this," he said, "but the important thing for DNO is that we are getting paid, period."
According to Azzaman news agency, Iraq only agreed to carry Kurdish crude on its national pipelines on condition the proceeds were funneled to the Central Bank.
Shahristani said he had no plan to meet with DNO executives while in Norway for the conference.
(Source: Reuters, Azzaman)