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Iraqi prime minister reopens Kurdish airports to worldwide flights

14 March 2018, 10:56 | Taylor George

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

Iraqi authorities said on Tuesday they were lifting a almost six-month air blockade imposed on Iraqi Kurdistan in response to its holding of an independence referendum.

Former President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani said that re-opening Kurdistan airports a good step, but issues between Erbil and Baghdad can not be "summarized" merely through airport and budget matters.

Relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) have remained tense since last September, when the KRG held an illegitimate referendum on regional independence.

It was extended in December for two months and renewed in February for another possible three months.

In an official statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the worldwide flight ban in the Kurdistan Region lifted, allowing flights to resume from both Erbil and Sulaimani airports after more than five months of being under embargo.

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Al-Abadi said a higher committee will be formed "to oversee the management of the Kurdish region's airports to ensure their compliance with the federal government's standards".

"This will depend on how long it takes for employees of the central government to start working in the airports", he said.

The airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah would again be "open to worldwide flights", he said in a statement.

It also specified that the biometric system used in the Kurdistan Region's airports will be linked with the federal system.

The announcement comes six months after the airports were shut to worldwide flights following a controversial referendum vote in northern Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region that was deemed illegal by Baghdad. Late a year ago, following the failed independence push, federal forces recaptured the oilfields, severing a key financial lifeline for the Kurds.



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