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Iraq lifts ban on international flights to Kurdish airports

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Iraqi premier-designate Haider al-Abadi speaks at his first press conference since accepting the nomination to be Iraq’s next prime minister, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Al-Abadi called on the country’s numerous Shiite militias and tribes to come under government control and stop acting independently on Monday, as violence across the country killed over 40 people in areas where the Muslim sect dominates. Since early this year, Iraq has been facing a growing Sunni insurgency with the Islamic State group and allied Sunni militants who have taken over areas in the country’s west and north. (AP Photo/Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister)

BAGHDAD, March 13 (Xinhua) — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday lifted a ban on international flights to two airports in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.

A statement by his office said that 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.”

Abadi made the announcement during his meeting with the officers of the regional Interior Ministry who are working at the two airports, the statement said.

Abadi also said that a new security directorate will be established to protect the airports in the Kurdish region, and it will be under command and control of the federal Interior Ministry.

All the regional airports and border crossings will be linked directly to the main control system in Baghdad, similar to what is done in the other Iraqi airports and crossing, the statement said.

The passports and national ID offices and the employees at the airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah will also be linked to the federal Interior Ministry, it added.

In September 2017, the Iraqi federal government 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 ban on international flights on the region’s international airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah forced passengers to apply for an Iraqi visa to transit through Baghdad and Basra international airports to go or leave the Kurdish region.

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

The independence of Kurdistan is opposed not only by the Iraqi central government, but also by other countries as it would threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq and undermine the fight against the terror group Islamic State.

Iraq’s neighboring 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.

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  • Published: 7 days ago on March 13, 2018
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  • Last Modified: March 13, 2018 @ 5:18 pm
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