Jabbar al-Luaibi, the former head of Iraq’s biggest crude producer who was appointed oil minister on Monday, said that he sees ways to resolve the energy dispute with the self-governed Kurds in the north of OPEC’s No. 2 producer.
Al-Luaibi’s appointment was approved by parliament on Monday as part of a government reshuffle, according to a statement by deputy parliament speaker Humam Hamoudi. Al-Luaibi is former head of the state-owned South Oil Co. which produces most of the country’s crude. He replaces Adel Abdul Mahdi who had suspended his participation in the cabinet in March, citing disarray in government ministries.
More than 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted former President Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s finances are being drained by the oil-price plunge and the political bickering that has delayed efforts to tackle graft and sectarian divisions. The country has lost sales and revenue from its northern region as a payments dispute with the Kurds and interruptions to the flow of oil for export through a pipeline to Turkey have crippled shipments.
The new minister told local news service Alsumaria soon after his appointment that there are “various ways to resolve” the conflict with the Kurdish region of Iraq which has split control of the country’s crude exports. He also said that Iraq will seek local investment to develop its natural gas industry.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is ready to “seriously negotiate” with the central government to resolve disputes including issues related to oil, KRG spokesman Safeen Dizayee said by phone. “We wish all the best for the new ministers and that they can take part in creating an environment to help resolve problems between the two parties.”
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said the cabinet reshuffle was part of reforms, according to a statement on his website. Al-Abadi’s efforts to shuffle the cabinet have been repeatedly blocked by lawmakers.
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Iraq, the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, holds the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves. The drop in crude prices over the past two years has squeezed state revenue as the government waged a costly campaign against Islamic State militants who have seized parts of northern Iraq. Iraq produced 4.36 million barrels a day in July compared with 4.44 million at the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Al-Luaibi, who has a bachelor of science in chemical engineering, has worked in Iraq’s oil business since 1973, according to a copy of his resume provided by his office.