The President of Iraqi Kurdistan said on Wednesday that the region will go ahead with its exploration deal with U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil despite objections from Baghdad.
According to Reuters, Masoud Barzani (pictured) said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was told of the deal prior to its signing and had no objection, and called Baghdad's opposition unconstitutional.
"The contract is not unconstitutional. Yes, we have signed with Exxon Mobil according to the constitution ... the objection that we heard from some officials is what is unconstitutional," he told the news agency in an interview.
"We are committed to the deal and we will execute it without caring about what some officials in Baghdad say, which is against the constitution."
Exxon has not commented publicly on the agreement and Iraqi oil officials say the company has not responded to their requests for an explanation.
Despite the silence from Exxon, the U.S. State Department commented on the deal, saying it hoped Iraq and Exxon could resolve the dispute in a way that would not undercut the future development of Iraqi oil resources.
Barzani said the Exxon deal would benefit all of Iraq, not just the Kurdish region. He said he was surprised at Baghdad's recent warning against the deal.
"It is strange really, and has no meaning. For us, it doesn't mean anything. At the first step, I sent a message to the prime minister and informed him of all the details. The answer I got back was that there was no objection... Before the signing, yes."
"The oil policy in Iraq is a failed policy, I say it clearly. Ask the Iraqi people where are the oil refineries? ... How many hours of electricity are available for the Iraqi citizen in the center and south? And Iraq lives on a sea of oil," he said.
"If it is not a failed policy, then what is the reason?" he asked.