Iraq lifts ban on intl flights to Kurdistan airports

Rep. Chris Stewart US still has 'strong alliance' with Kurds

Rep. Chris Stewart during an interview with Kurdistan 24 in Washington DC

In September 2017 people in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq voted in the controversial referendum, despite warnings from the central government in Baghdad and worldwide opposition.

He 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.

This 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.

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

Only domestic flights have been allowed through the region's airports, with foreign airlines suspending their routes in accordance with an order from the central government.

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.

At a joint press conference with KRG Finance Minister Rebaz Hamlan, Iraqi Central Bank Governor Ali Mohsen al-Alaq said the KRG had voluntarily surrendered its right to operate, regulate and supervise local banks to the central government in Baghdad.

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

Global flights are expected to resume within a week, said a decree issued by Abadi. Kurdish lawmakers boycotted a recent vote in parliament approving the country's 2018 budget. It did not specify the exact percentage to be allocated to the KRG instead stipulating it would receive funds proportional to its share of the population.

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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