Iraq's prime minister has offered to pay the salaries of government employees in Kurdistan if the autonomous northern region stops selling oil on its own.
The Kurdistan regional government’s economic crisis, precipitated in 2014 by a collapse in oil prices, has worsened this year and forced cuts in public workers' salaries of up to 75 percent, fueling discontent in the once prosperous region.
"I have a suggestion," Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on state television. "Give us the oil and we will give every Kurdish employee a salary like we do for every Iraqi employee."
Baghdad stopped paying workers' salaries last year after a deal on oil and revenue-sharing fell apart and Kurdish leaders started bypassing the central government, exporting oil through a pipeline to Turkey.
Abadi’s offer suggests that Baghdad sees current economic strains as an opportunity to woo back the increasingly independent Kurds.
Kurdish officials have warned that the region faces economic collapse as the loss of oil revenues from falling prices has been compounded by a costly war with Islamic State (IS) militants and the influx of thousands of refugees fleeing IS into Kurdistan.