Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
World | By Paul Elliott

Baghdad ends air blockade on Iraqi Kurdistan

Baghdad ends air blockade on Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurdish prime minister Nechirvan Barzani told a press conference shortly after the announcement that he "thanked Baghdad and Prime Minister Abadi because it is he who chose to reopen the airports".

In Iraq, airports in the country's Kurdish region will be opened to worldwide flights after federal authority has been restored.

The decision to lift the flight ban was made "after local Kurdish authorities accepted that central authorities retake control of the two airports", the statement said.

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".

Al-Abadi described the move as "a gift to the people of Kurdistan", during a meeting aired on Iraqi state television and added that the central government would also release salaries for government employees in the Kurdish region ahead of the celebration of the Kurdish new year later this month.

Worldwide flights are expected to resume within a week, said a decree issued by Abadi.

He said airports in the Kurdish region will be under the command of the Federal Ministry of Interior.

It was not immediately clear whether the region would continue to maintain its independent visa system.

Tensions rose between Baghdad and the region of Kurdistan after the Kurds held a controversial referendum last September to approve the independence of the Kurdistan region and the disputed areas.

Since the flight ban went into force, all Kurdistan-bound worldwide flights have been rerouted to Baghdad, which also imposed entry visas to foreigners wishing to visit the Kurdish region.

The ban was part of a series of penalties imposed on the Kurds to quash the poll.

Baghdad and Arbil have been engaged in a political and territorial struggle since the September 25 independence referendum.

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