Long-serving Iraqi Kurdish natural resources minister, Ashti Hawrami, will take up an advisory role of Assistant Prime Minister for Energy Affairs in Prime Minister Masrour Barazani’s newly-formed cabinet, Kurdish lawmakers said on Sunday.
Hawrami, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) energy minister since 2006, is seen as the mastermind behind the semi-autonomous region’s plans to have an energy industry free from the Baghdad central government’s control.
“Hawrami has been appointed as an assistant to Prime Minister Masrour for energy affairs. He will help run the energy portfolio until a new minister is appointed,” said regional Kurdish lawmaker Sirwan Baban.
Hawrami will be entitled to “carry out and implement decisions, authorities, and policies of the Kurdistan Regional Government (Iraq) in relation to the oil and gas sector”, a copy of the prime minister decision reviewed by Reuters showed. The copy was verified by multiple regional officials.
The natural resources portfolio in the new regional cabinet is vacant and several sources said Kurdish political parties are yet to reach an agreement over who should fill the position.
“There are still differences between the key political parties over who will succeed Hawrami,” said Baban.
Barzani told Reuters in an exclusive interview that under his leadership, the KRG’s focus would be to establish a “strong and constructive” relationship with Baghdad.
Chief among issues that strained relations between the regional capital Erbil and Baghdad is a disagreement over independent regional oil exports and revenue sharing.
Baghdad demands that the region’s oil sales must be handled by the federal oil ministry and regional authorities contest that they have the power to sell oil and gas produced from oilfields located inside the region.