BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Tuesday the resumption of international flights to the two main cities in Iraqi Kurdistan – Erbil and Sulaymaniyah – following their suspension in September 2017 in response to the autonomous region’s independence referendum.
Al-Abadi’s statement said international flights would be resumed within one week, after authorities in Kurdistan, located in northern Iraq, agreed to hand over control of their airports and border posts to federal authorities at Iraq’s Ministry of Interior.
“International air traffic to and from the airports of the region shall be permitted ... after completing the requirements of this Executive Decree, provided that this is not more than one week from its date,” al-Abadi’s statement said.
The Iraqi government’s Twitter account quoted al-Abadi in English as saying flights would begin “within one week,” although neither the Arabic statement from his office nor the Arabic tweets mentioned this.
The ban on international, but not domestic, flights to and from Erbil and Sulaymaniyah was one of the sanctions imposed by Baghdad in response to Kurdistan’s independence referendum, held Sept. 25.
The vote, deemed illegal by Iraq’s federal authorities, saw widespread support among Kurdistan’s population for independence from the central government in Baghdad.
The Kurdish government has repeatedly called for lifting the flight ban, and decreased tensions between Erbil and Baghdad have paved the way for the return of international air traffic.