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Iraqi PM Reopens Kurdish Airports to International Flights

Iraqi PM Reopens Kurdish Airports to International Flights

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Tuesday the airports of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah were "again open to global flights" after the federal authority was restored at the hubs.

Global flights to and from the semi-autonomous region's two main airports in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah were halted on September 29 as part of sanctions imposed on the Kurds after they held an independence referendum four days earlier in defiance of Baghdad and voted overwhelmingly in favour of separation.

Kurdish authorities have agreed for Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports to come under federal control, reporting to Baghdad's Ministry of Interior, the decree said.

At a news conference in Irbil, the prime minister of Iraq's Kurdish region, Nechirvan Barzani, described al-Abadi's decision as "a step in the right direction", and said he would continue to work to resolve issues between the region and the central government.

In October 2017, Iraqi federal forces retook control of the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk and many disputed territories in response to the Kurdish referendum.

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The Iraqi military has denied reports about demarcating borders between the central government in Baghdad and northern Iraq's Kurdish region.

However, Iraqi parliament remains deeply divided, raising fears of a protracted government formation process following national elections.

Iraq's Parliament approved the country's controversial 2018 budget bill in the absence of Kurdish politicians, who boycotted the session.

Relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) have remained tense since last September, when the KRG held an illegitimate referendum on regional independence.