Iraqi prime minister reopens Kurdish airports to worldwide flights

Nellie Chapman
March 14, 2018

Iraq has lifted the ban on global flights to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) airports, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement on March 13.

A statement by his office said Abadi signed a decree to lift the ban after receiving positive response from the Kurdish local authorities "to restore the federal authority in the two airports in accordance with the Constitution of Iraq".

Kurdish authorities confirmed that airports in Iraqi Kurdistan will return to federal Iraqi control and would report to Baghdad's Interior Ministry.

The announcement comes some six months after the airports were initially shut to worldwide flights following a controversial referendum vote in northern Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region that overwhelmingly backed independence from Baghdad.

It also specified that the biometric system used in the Kurdistan Region's airports will be linked with the federal system. "We hope more significant steps will be taken".

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The airports are due to open "within a few days" government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told The Associated Press. Kurdish lawmakers boycotted a recent vote in parliament approving the country's 2018 budget.

Iraq's neighbouring countries, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria, fear that the Iraqi Kurds' pursuit of independence threatens their own territorial integrity by inspiring the Kurdish population in those countries to seek independence.

The blockade was extended in December for two months and then renewed in February for another three months.

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces took control of the northern province of Kirkuk, home to key oilfields, in June 2014 after federal forces withdrew in their fight against the "Islamic State" group.

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