Kurdistan confirms partial lifting of Iraqi air embargo for pilgrims

Flag of Kurdistan Region.

Baghdad ( Iraqi Kurdistan has confirmed reports that the Iraqi government had decided to partially lift an embargo imposed on the autonomous region’s airports.

In a press conference on Thursday, attended by Mawazin News Ageny, head of Kurdisstan’s pilgrimage directorate, Qassem Rasoul, said the authority received an approval from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to run pilgrims flights from and to Sulaimaniyah and Erbil airports.

“The order (to lift the embargo partially) was made days earlier, but we have not declared him since it is an Iraqi aviation authority issue,” he said.

Rasoul said a delegation from his authority will visit Baghdad Sunday and convene with their Iraqi counterparts to “set a mechanism for operating pilgrims’ flights from Erbil and Sulaimaniyah international airports”.

The Baghdad-based Iraqi government had imposed an embargo on flights on Kurdistan’s Sulaimaniyah and Erbil airports following a vote for independence the autonomous region’s government ran in September, which Baghdad deemed illegal.

Recent reports have pointed to imminent talks between both governments to resolve pending disputes over the administration of the region’s airports as well as other contentious subjects.

As part of talks to end the crisis, Baghdad has asked to hand over management of the airports to its central aviation authorities.

In January, Shafaq News quoted Taher Abdullah, Sulaimaniyah Airport chief, saying that passengers numbers at the terminal declined by 86% after the embargo. He said that the airport had used to record the arrival of 50.000 per month before the embargo, which declined after the measure to 6000-7000 per month.

Iraqi Alqurtas News quoted Abdullah saying on the same occasion that the airport recorded the entrance and exit of 485000 passengers in 2017, a drop of 7 percent from the preceding year.


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