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Iraq’s Kurdistan airports and border crossings will reopen in weeks: Officials

A security guard is seen at the Iran-Iraq border crossing of Haji Omran on Jan. 3, 2018, one day after two border posts were reopened between Iraqi Kurdistan and the Islamic republic. (AFP)
BAGHDAD: Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have initially agreed to reopen the airports and border crossings under the federal authorities’ supervision in a few weeks, federal and regional officials told Arab News on Tuesday.
Tensions between Baghdad and the KRG have been at a peak since September when the KRG held a controversial referendum on independence. Baghdad responded by imposing a series of punitive measures, including banning international flights to and from the region and shutting down the border crossings between the region and Turkey and Iran.
Handing the airports and border crossings to federal authorities was one of Baghdad’s main demands to ease sanctions on the region. The Kurdish region has suffered a serious economic crisis and the KRG has not been able to pay the monthly salaries of government employees for almost three years due to the administrative and financial corruption rampant in government departments and the control of some figures on the revenues of the region.
Joint technical committees have been formed to discuss problems relating to the border, border crossings, airports, oil and the payments of the government employees.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi told reporters on Tuesday that talks between the two sides were “good and positive.”
Federal and regional officials involved in the talks told Arab News that the “initial” deal made by the two sides on Monday included subjecting airports in the region to the authority of the Iraqi civil aviation power, and jointly running dams and border crossings. However, security, intelligence, residency and visa issues in the region will be the exclusive authority of the federal Interior Ministry as well as all federal laws relating to foreigners.
The agreement includes the KRG handing over all revenues of airports and crossings, in addition to 250,000 bpd of oil exported from the region, to the federal government. In return, Baghdad will pay the monthly salaries of regional employees initially for two months “to be sure that the KRG will meet all the agreed items.”
“We concluded the deal (with the KRG) of the airports and crossings and all the related issues and sent the recommendations to the prime minister and are waiting for his approval,” a senior federal official involved in the talks told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
“The airports and crossings will be opened but the arrangements that we agreed on need weeks to be applied on the ground,” the official said.

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