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Iraqi PM lifts ban on international air traffic to Kurdistan Region

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi has consented to lift the ban on foreign air traffic to the Kurdistan Region.

The Prime Minister’s decree said international flights could resume operations with a week’s time.

The decree also disclosed that Kurdish officials have already agreed for Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports to be placed under federal supervision, reporting to the Ministry of Interior of Baghdad.

The ban on international flights to and from the region’s two main aviation hubs, which began on September 29, was part of the penalties that was slapped on the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region after it conducted an independence referendum that defied Baghdad’s wishes.

Iraq’s Kurds supported independence from federal Iraq in the aforementioned vote that happened on September 25.

Since then, only domestic flights have been permitted to go through the region’s airports, with foreign airlines suspending their routes in compliance with a directive from the central government.

The ban hit the economy of the Kurdistan Region hard, with the decrease in tourism and travel impacting local businesses.

The decree proclaimed 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.”

Federal customs authorities would be tasked with supervising the “introduction, production and handling of materials and equipment through the two airports,” the decree mandated.

It also indicated that the biometric system that is being used in the airports of the Kurdistan Region would be linked with the federal system.

However, it remains vague as whether the region would maintain its independent visa system.

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