Kurdistan prepared to freeze referendum results amid clashes and oil effects

Dubai — Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it’s prepared to freeze the results of last month’s independence referendum, which triggered deadly clashes with government troops and hurt oil exports.

The KRG also proposed an immediate ceasefire and talks with the central government in Baghdad “on the basis of the constitution”.

“As Iraq and Kurdistan are faced with grave and dangerous circumstances, we are all obliged to act responsibly in order to prevent further violence and clashes,” the KRG said in a statement on its website. “Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life.”

More than 90% of Iraqi Kurds voted for independence in the non-binding referendum, which was fiercely opposed by Baghdad as well as neighbouring countries, such as Turkey and Iran, fearing it could embolden their own Kurdish minorities. This month, the federal government sent troops to take back disputed areas that Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had seized in 2014 after Islamic State routed Iraqi forces, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

The lack of international support and Kurdish divisions have played a role in the proposal to freeze the referendum’s result, said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. KRG president “Masoud Barzani is facing attempts internally to isolate him”, he added, “otherwise, he would’ve gone all the way with the referendum”.

The clashes disrupted output at some of Iraq’s northern oil fields, including the giant Kirkuk reservoir, reducing exports. This week, shipments rebounded, with combined exports from Kirkuk and the adjacent Kurdish region rising to about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to a port agent’s report early on Tuesday. Exports were flowing at a rate of 254,000 bpd on Monday, the agent said.

Iraq had been exporting close to 600,000 bpd on average this year from fields in Kirkuk and the Kurdish enclave, shipping them together through the same pipeline to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Brent crude gained 3.8% in the past two weeks, partly on the disruption. The benchmark rose 0.1% to $58.41 a barrel as of 8.13am in Dubai.