The Kurdish region of northern Iraq is being drained by the cost of battling Islamic State forces and the international community needs to do more to help, the region’s top diplomat said.
Kurdistan’s Peshmerga fighters, who have borne the brunt of the fight against Islamic State in Iraq, are under-equipped, and haven’t been paid since April, Kurdistan Regional Government Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir said in an interview in Bratislava, Slovakia. At the same time, the semi-autonomous region is hosting around 1.8 million refugees who fled the areas captured by Islamic State.
“It’s a tough and costly fight. This isn’t only our responsibility, it’s a collective responsibility,” Bakir said. “We are grateful for what has been provided so far” by the international community, “but we need more,” he said.
At least part of the funding problem is due to wrangling over budget revenue with the central government in Baghdad, he said. The Kurds are locked in a dispute with the Iraqi central authorities over territory and export revenue from the region’s growing oil industry.
The fighting and refugee influx has taken a toll on the Kurdish economy, where growth shrank to 3 percent last year from 8 percent in 2013, according to Bakir. Kurdistan needs at least $1.4 billion to meet the costs of the refugee crisis, he said, citing a World Bank report.
In a bid to ease its finances, the KRG says it has hired Goldman Sachs International and Deutsche Bank AG to gauge interest in a sale of dollar bonds. Meetings with international investors are scheduled this week.
The Kurds also have sought to market their own energy resources and sign separate exploration deals, exacerbating tensions with the central government. The KRG said this month that exports reached 578,000 barrels a day in May, and it aims to pump 1 million barrels a day by the end of next year. The region holds 45 billion barrels of reserves.