Barzani took his oath of office on Wednesday, confirming him as the new prime minister of the autonomous Kurdish region following a majority vote by parliament to approve his appointment and cabinet.
In an interview with Reuters at his office in Erbil, the Kurdish leader said the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) would work to build a “strong and constructive” partnership with the Iraqi government.
“The focus of my government will be how to build a stronger relationship and partnership with Baghdad,” Barzani said, adding his government would look for ways to mend the disputes that are “keeping us apart.”
The Kurdistan Region held a historic independence referendum in September 2017 where nearly 93 percent of voters chose secession from Baghdad.
The central government, though, rejected the legality of the vote and responded with a set of punitive measures including a flight ban and the use of military force to regain control of disputed territories between Erbil and Baghdad.
Ties between the two governments have considerably improved, thanks heavily to a change in government on both sides.
Among some of the outstanding disputes between the KRG and the Iraqi government are negotiations on oil and gas.
The autonomous Kurdish government has exported its oil independently since 2013.
Following the post-referendum fallout, the KRG agreed to send 250,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to Baghdad in exchange for the payment of civil servants’ salaries.
Officials in Iraq complain that the Kurdish leadership has failed to hold its end of the bargain.
According to Barzani, he sees room for “quick progress” on the matter as talks between Erbil and Baghdad on oil and gas disputes are ongoing.
“There is a great potential for a win-win situation,” he told Reuters.
“Working together in cooperation with each other, we can increase the production of oil.”