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Photo: Aziz Othman

Rudaw: Abadi orders airports to reopen after KRG ‘heeds’ federal authority

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered for the KRG to allow Baghdad to implement federal control at airports in Kurdistan, thus paving the way for the return of international flights within a week of meeting Baghdad’s demands.

“Based on [Abadi’s] constitutional jurisprudence, the reopening of the Erbil and Sulaimani airports for international flights will occur,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday.

The policy change would occur “after the local authority in the Kurdistan Region heeds the return of federal authority in the two respective airports,” according to Abadi.

Abadi’s office released a decree to create “a Directorate for Special Protection” for the airports of the Kurdistan Region. If the KRG abides by the decree, airports may resume international flights “not more than one week from its date.”

The requirements equate to a complete federal imposition of control over Kurdistan’s airports.

The directorate “will be under the command and control of the Federal Ministry of Interior, and the Minister of Interior.”

Protection of Erbil and Sulaimani’s airports are linked to the aforementioned directorate, and it “shall abide by the uniform specified for the security forces of the Ministry of Interior.”

Biometric systems from Kurdistan “are to be linked to the main system in Baghdad, as is the case in other Iraqi ports.”

“Passports and nationality departments and their staff” will be attached to Iraq’s Ministry of Interior.

To supervise the management of airports and border crossings a High Committee shall be established.

“It shall include representatives of all concerned authorities in the Center and the Region and shall report to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces or whom he authorizes,” read Abadi’s decree.

Abadi and KRG Interior Minister Karim Sinjari met in Baghdad after the announcement, when they underscored that coordination will continue between the KRG and the central government.

“The era of exploitation has gone since the collapse of the Baathist regime,” Abadi said, adding that Iraq has a rich source of assets which benefit the whole country.

“I would love to hear tomorrow that the airports were opened,” Abadi said.

Abadi commended the role of Nechirvan Barzani saying “our continued and strong relations” made Erbil and Baghdad reach a resolution.

In the meeting Sinjari, who is also the KRG’s acting Peshmerga minister, said “we commend the reopening of the airports, this means that you are implementing the constitution.”

“The re-opening of the airports is step in the right direction towards resolving impending issues between the Region and Baghdad.

He assured Abadi that there is “good coordination” between the KRG’s Interior Ministry and Baghdad’s.

“We hope for such meetings to continue between both sides,” he added.

In February, Iraq extended the international flight ban until May 31.

The last international flight to leave the Kurdistan Region was on September 29, 2017. The closure of the Sulaimani and Erbil airports to international travel is seen as a punitive measure taken by Abadi following the September 25 independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region.

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