Erbil airport, in Iraqi Kurdistan, on February 26, 2018
The Iraqi authorities announced on Tuesday the end to almost six months of air blockade in Iraqi Kurdistan, imposed in response to the independence referendum held in this autonomous region.
The airports of Erbil and Solimania are „again open to international flights,“ Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi reported.
The decision was made „after the local Kurdistan authorities agreed that the plants would regain control of the two airports,“ Abadi said in a statement.
The lifting of the blockade „will apply in the coming days,“ Saad al-Hadithi, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, told AFP. „It will depend on the time it takes for the employees of the central government to start working at the airports,“ he added.
At the end of September, after the holding of an independence referendum organized by Erbil, capital of the autonomous region, against the opinion of Baghdad, the Iraqi central authorities demanded control of the airports and border posts located in Kurdistan.
They also sent troops to recover disputed areas in which Kurdish fighters were deployed over the years, especially since the chaos created in 2014 by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) offensive. Kurdistan thus lost its oil resources from the province of Kirkuk.
Baghdad demanded control in Kurdistan of issues of passports and residence permits, as well as customs and customs duties. Erbil yielded on this last point and control of airport security was the last one left pending.
Since the beginning of the blockade, all flights from Kurdistan to other countries were transiting through Baghdad and foreigners had to apply for a visa from the federal authorities, something that had not happened before.