Iraq's PM Abadi lifts worldwide flight ban to KRG

Iraq's PM Abadi lifts worldwide flight ban to KRG

Iraq's PM Abadi lifts worldwide flight ban to KRG

Iraq has lifted the ban on global flights to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region's airports, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement on Tuesday.

The move "aims to facilitate the travel of citizens" through the two airports, the statement said.

Relations between Baghdad and the regional government Erbil have remained tense since last September, when the KRG held an unconstitutional referendum on regional independence.

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

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

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

Federal customs authorities will supervise the "introduction, production and handling of materials and equipment through the two airports", the decree said.

The flight ban was part of a battery of penalties inflicted on the Kurds as Baghdad sought to nullify the poll, with federal forces also seizing disputed oil-rich regions.

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

The ban on global flights on the region's worldwide airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah forced passengers to apply for an Iraqi visa to transit through Baghdad and Basra global airports to go or leave the Kurdish region.

The unconstitutional poll prompted Baghdad to impose a raft of punitive sanctions on the KRG, including a ban on worldwide flights into and out of the Kurdish region.

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

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