Iraqi PM Reopens Kurdish Airports to International Flights


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday lifted a ban on global flights to two airports in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

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.

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. The deputy spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said talks were taking place on the issue.

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

The Iraqi government later imposed the flights ban on the Kurdish region as part of a package of punitive measures that also included blocking all the border crossings outside the federal control.

The UN special envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, said the move was a "significant positive step that is certain to boost the atmosphere of partnership cooperation" between the two sides.

"Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi announced the reopening of the airports in Erbil and Suleimaniyah to worldwide flights", said a tweet published by Mr Abadi's official account.

Relations between Irbil and Baghdad remain frosty, however.

The Kurdish independence vote last September, though non-binding, was held across the autonomous region's three provinces as well as in some disputed territories controlled by Iraqi Kurdish security forces but claimed by Baghdad.