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Iraq lifts ban on worldwide flights to Kurdish airports

Iraq lifts ban on worldwide flights to Kurdish airports

Relations between Baghdad and the regional government Erbil have remained tense since last September, when the KRG held an unconstitutional referendum on regional independence.

Following the provocative vote, Baghdad imposed a ban on direct global flights to and from the Kurdish region and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.

Northern Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has agreed to relinquish the right to operate and oversee banks in the region, the governor of Iraq's central bank said Tuesday.

The airports are due to open "within a few days" government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told The Associated Press.

"This will depend on how long it takes for employees of the central government to start working in the airports", he said.

He also said that a new security directorate will be established to protect the airports in the Kurdish region and it will be under command and control of the federal Interior Ministry.

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

Only domestic flights have been allowed through the region's airports, with foreign airlines suspending their routes in accordance with an order from the central government.

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

This hit the Kurdistan Region's economy, with a decrease in tourism and travel affecting local businesses.

It was not immediately clear whether the region would maintain its independent visa system.

Iraq's neighbouring countries, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria, fear that the Iraqi Kurds' pursuit of independence threatens their own territorial integrity by inspiring the Kurdish population in those countries to seek independence.