Passengers check in for flights at Erbil International Airport last September, two days before the flight ban came into effect. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority representatives are in the Kurdistan Region to prepare for the reopening of the airports to international traffic, a KRG official stated on Sunday.
“This is a preparation for the opening of the airports,” Jalal Sheikh Karim, deputy minister of the KRG Interior Ministry, told Rudaw. “Everything has been provided for them and facilitations done in order to prepare to open the airports.”
Karim added there is no room for “excuses” to continue to ban international flights.
The international flight ban has affected all of Iraq, posited Netherlands Consul General Janet Alberda in an interview with Rudaw English.
It has “impacted... the country and society as a whole,” she said.
“I think sanctions in whatever sort and whatever kinds they are, are not helpful to stabilize and focus on the future,” she said, explaining “the longer the international flight ban is still there and there's not any good outcome of discussions between Baghdad and Erbil, that's not good for the country as a whole.”
In response to Kurdistan’s independence vote last September, Baghdad imposed a set of punitive measures against the Region, including a ban on international flights in and out of Erbil and Sulaimani airports.
Discussions between Erbil and Baghdad have been ongoing for weeks, with the two sides appearing to come close to an agreement that would bring the Kurdish airports under Iraqi Civil Aviation Law.
A Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official claimed earlier this week that an agreement has been reached “in principle” to reopen Kurdistan’s airports to international traffic. He expected them to be back in operation by the end of the month.
"The situation has progressed in some stages with Iraq... the re-opening of the airports has finished in principle," Saadi Ahmad Pira, spokesperson for the PUK, told Rudaw.
"But only the timing has not been set yet," he added.
At the end of December 2017, Baghdad extended the international flight ban until February 28.
In late January, a PUK MP in Baghdad predicted the flight ban would be lifted within two weeks.
The final decision to allow international flights to return to Kurdistan rests with Abadi.