Baghdad Lifts Air Blockade off Kurdistan Airports

Iraq map showing Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region

Iraq map showing Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region

In a statement, al-Abadi's office said flights will be resumed to the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports after a six-month suspension.

In an official statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the global flight ban in the Kurdistan Region lifted, allowing flights to resume from both Erbil and Sulaimani airports after more than five months of being under embargo.

The formal lifting of the blockade will take place in the next few days, Abadi's spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told the news agency Agence France-Presse.

Al-Abadi described the move as "a gift to the people of Kurdistan", during a meeting aired on Iraqi state television and added that the central government would also release salaries for government employees in the Kurdish region ahead of the celebration of the Kurdish new year later this month.

Federal authorities imposed the blockade in September after Iraqi Kurdistan voted overwhelmingly for independence in a non-binding referendum rejected as illegal by the central government.

Global flights are expected to resume within a week, said a decree issued by Abadi.

"Kurdistan's regional airports will be under the command of the Federal Ministry of the Interior", the statement said.

It is not clear if the autonomous region will maintain its independent visa system after the blockade ends. This hit the region's economy, with a decrease in tourism and travel affecting local businesses.

This prompted Baghdad to impose a raft of punitive sanctions on the KRG, including a ban on global flights into and out of the Kurdish region. Around 25 million Kurds live in a territory that spans the borders of modern-day Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia.

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