British FM urges Abadi to lift international flight ban on Kurdistan

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – In a recent phone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson encouraged Baghdad to remove the current international flight embargo on the two airports in the Kurdistan Region.

“They discussed the upcoming elections, the negotiations between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the Kuwait Conference,” the British Embassy in Baghdad stated on Monday.

“The Foreign Secretary urged progress on the talks between Baghdad and Erbil and encouraged restarting international flights to the Kurdish Region,” the statement added.

However, the statement published by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office about the telephone conversation did not mention whether Erbil-Baghdad tensions and the lifting of sanctions was indeed a topic of conversation.

According to the British Embassy statement, the two politicians are also reported to have discussed Iraq’s reconstruction conference in Kuwait, a conference which delegates from the UK attended.

“Johnson underlined the UK’s commitment to support private sector development in Iraq.”

Following the Sep. 25 referendum on independence in the Kurdistan Region, Baghdad imposed collective punitive measures on the region, including banning international flights in both Erbil and Sulaimani airports, as well as carrying out military operations to take over the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other disputed territories that have been under the Kurdish Peshmerga forces over the past few years.

In spite the international pressure from the UK and other countries, the flight embargo continues to be in effect. Abadi has said that the ban will not be removed until the Iraqi governmental committee tasked with assessing the situation and negotiating with the Kurdistan Regional Government finishes their tasks in the region. Baghdad has not set a date for the resumption of international flights in the two Kurdish airports.

There are many long-standing issues between Erbil and Baghdad that remain unresolved, especially those related to oil, budget share of the Kurdistan Region, disputed territories, and multiple allegations of violations of the Iraqi constitution.

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