The entrance to the Erbil airport, one of two international airports in the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Safin Hamed | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Airports in the Kurdistan Region have been reopened for international flights.
“Iraq’s aviation authority has issued a NOTAM [notice to airmen] for the resumption of international flights to Erbil and Sulaimani airports,” Talar Faiq, director general of Erbil International Airport, told Rudaw on Wednesday evening.
She explained that she had received a copy of the notice Wednesday evening.
Baghdad will send technical teams to Erbil and Sulaimani on Sunday and the Iraqi interior ministry will control the flight schedule.
Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji, KRG Interior Minister Karim Sinjari, and Bestun Zangana, the head of the Transportation Committee in the Iraqi parliament, made the joint announcement on Wednesday after meeting in Erbil.
"There is some propaganda that the directors will be changed. None of these are true. The flights are open from now on based on a schedule from the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation," said Zangana.
Next week, Baghdad will send teams to Erbil and Sulaimani.
"The technical sides from Sunday onward will come to the aiports and start working under the [Iraqi] Civil Aviation Authority," revealed Zangana.
"We welcome the Iraqi minister of interior and thank him for his efforts for reopening both the Sulaimani and Erbil airports. The reopening of the two airports is a good step towards resolving the issues between the governments of Baghdad and Erbil," Sinjari said.
Sinjari, who is also acting Peshmerga minister, reiterated that "all issues between Baghdad and Erbil should be resolved through dialogue and discussions and based on the Iraqi constitution," Sinjari said.
Araji expressed the visit to Erbil was to follow up on Abadi's decree from Tuesday.
"Today we came to Erbil to execute and implement the directions of Mr. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the official decree for reopening the Erbil and Sulaimani airports for international flights..." Araji said.
The Iraqi side also sees the constitution as the key to resolving oustandings issues between the federal and regional governments.
"Everyone agreed that the constitution is relevant criteria to resolve all disagreements. Everything is good and on the right path," Araji added.
Araji and his delegation also met on Wednesday with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.
The two discussed the decision to reopen the airports, according to a statement from Barzani's office.
"They hoped that this step would pave the way for rejuvenating trust and be followed by sending salaries and resolving other issues," the KRG readout stated.
Araji and Barzani "emphasized strengthening security cooperation and collaboration and exchange of information between the federal and Kurdistan Region's Ministry of Interior and other related apparatus for confronting terrorists and the threats posed by terrorism."
The KRG and Baghdad reached an agreement on Tuesday conditional on federal authority being imposed in the airports in Sulaimani and Erbil. The conditions include a number of technical measures regarding the exchange of information, visa authority, uniforms for security personnel in the airport, and a joint committee.
KRG Interior Minister Karim Sinjari met in Baghdad with Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday.
"I would love to hear tomorrow that the airports were opened," Abadi then said.
Barzani welcomed the reopening on Tuesday.
“I would like to thank Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and all the other sides in the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region to make it happen,” Barzani said then.
In February, Iraq extended the international flight ban until May 31.
The last international flight to leave the Kurdistan Region was on September 29, 2017. The closure of the Sulaimani and Erbil airports to international travel was seen as a punitive measure taken by Abadi following the September 25 independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region.