American Mediation Helped End Baghdad Blockade on Kurdistan Airports

American Mediation Helped End Baghdad Blockade on Kurdistan Airports

Wednesday, 14 March, 2018 - 06:15
Passengers at Erbil airport. (AFP)
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa
An American mediation and international pressure led Baghdad to end its flight blockade on the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s airports, revealed a leader in the Kurdistan Democratic Party of former President Masoud Barzani.

Iraqi President Fouad Masoum hailed the end of the blockade, but refused to ratify the 2018 general budget.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had on Tuesday announced that the Baghdad government was ending its nearly six-month air blockade on Iraqi Kurdistan.

The airports of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah would again be "open to international flights", he said in a statement.

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.

The decision to lift the flight ban was made "after local Kurdish authorities accepted that central authorities retake control of the two airports," the statement said.

A decree issued by Abadi announced the creation of a new Directorate for Special Protection for the airports of the Kurdistan Region, "which will be under the command and control of the Federal Ministry of the Interior".

Federal customs authorities will supervise the "introduction, production and handling of materials and equipment through the two airports", the decree said.

Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani thanked in a press conference Abadi for ending the blockade, saying it was “the first step in the right direction.”

He hoped that pending issues between Erbil and Baghdad would be resolved through constitutional means.

Masoum meanwhile welcomed the end of the blockade.

In a statement obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, he called for the resumption of comprehensive dialogue to resolve all other disputes between Iraq and Kurdistan.

He also refused to ratify the new state budget because it decreased funding allotted to the Kurds from 17 to 12.5 percent.

The Iraqi parliament voted on the budget two weeks ago amid a boycott by Kurdish lawmakers.

An aide to the president told Asharq Al-Awsat that Masoum’s refusal to sign the budget and return it to parliament was not linked to the lowering of the Kurdish share, but to 31 legal and constitutional violations he found in it.

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