Iraq lifts ban on intl flights to Kurdistan airports

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Iraq lifts ban on intl flights to Kurdistan airports

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi agreed to lift a ban on global air traffic to the Kurdistan Region on Tuesday, in a decree which said worldwide flights could resume within one week.

The announcement comes six months after the airports were shut to global flights following a controversial referendum vote in northern Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region that was deemed illegal by Baghdad.

The prime minister said the ban was lifted "after local authorities in the Kurdish region accepted the return of the two airports to the federal authority".

"The opening of Kurdish airports to worldwide flights is an important step", Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani told a news conference according to Kurdish Rudaw TV."We hope more significant steps will be taken".

Since the air ban was enforced, all Kurdistan-bound global flights have been rerouted to Baghdad, which has also imposed entry visas to foreigners wishing to visit the Kurdistan region.

Kurdistan's regional airports will be under the command of the federal Interior Ministry, according to the prime minister's statement.

Federal customs authorities will supervise the "introduction, production and handling of materials and equipment through the two airports", the decree said. This will include "biometric systems" linked to Baghdad. The deputy spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said talks were ongoing on the issue.

It was not immediately clear whether the region would continue to maintain its independent visa system. Baghdad has said it wants federal control of all border crossings of the Kurdistan region.

The Kurds, however, are not willing to accept anything less than a 17-percent share, saying there has not been a census in Iraq since 1987.

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