Iraq PM lifts flight ban to Kurdish region's airports

Iraq PM lifts flight ban to Kurdish region’s airports

On March 3, the Iraqi parliament endorsed a bill for the country's 2018 federal budget with about 77 billion US dollars and a deficit of about 10 billion dollars, after months of heated debate among the political blocs over multiple controversial items, including the 17-percent allocation from the national budget for the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

This prompted Baghdad to impose a raft of punitive sanctions on the KRG, including a ban on global flights into and out of the Kurdish region. It says the order to open the airports will be implemented within a week and will be in "compliance with the rules of Iraq's Civil Aviation Authority".

The decree announced the creation of a new Directorate for Special Protection for the airports of the Kurdistan Region, "which will be under the command and control of the Federal Ministry of the Interior".

It also specified that the biometric system used in the Kurdistan Region's airports will be linked with the federal system. The deputy spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said talks were ongoing on the issue.

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It opened up a persisting rift between the semi-autonomous region and the central government in Baghdad.

It appears that the reopening came after a series of discussions between KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Abadi's administration.

It was not immediately clear whether the region would maintain its independent visa system. Baghdad has said it wants federal control of all border crossings of the Kurdistan region. After the closure, all flights were routed through Baghdad and the number of arrivals in the Kurdistan region declined from up to 50,000 a month to as few as 7,000 a month, according to reports.

Masum is a Kurd and holds a largely ceremonial role as most power lies with the prime minister who belongs to the Shi'ite Muslim majority.


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