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)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Iraq’s Kurdistan airports and border crossings will reopen in weeks: Officials

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.


Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

Updated 6 min 58 sec ago
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Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

  • Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week
  • The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has picked prominent ministers to run for parliament next month, strengthening the ruling AK Party’s chances of winning a majority but putting their future role in government into question, party officials say.
Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week by the party to run for parliament in the June 24 poll, where the Islamist-rooted AK Party faces a stiff challenge from an opposition alliance.
While boosting the list of candidates, the move could affect the shape of the future cabinet because lawmakers will not be able to hold ministerial posts under the new presidential system, unless they resign their seats.
The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force, but recent opinion polls have suggested it could struggle to win an absolute majority, even with the support of its nationalist MHP ally.
The latest fall in the lira, which has lost more than a fifth of its value against the dollar this year, could also work against Erdogan if voters fear the government is pushing prices and the cost of living higher.
Erdogan is still widely expected to win the presidential election to be held the same day. While the presidency will take on greater executive authority afterwards, an opposition-controlled parliament could vote down legislation.
“Erdogan wants to win a parliamentary majority in this critical election with a strong list,” said one AK Party member running for parliament.
A survey by MAK pollsters, viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party, showed on Wednesday that the parliamentary race is absolutely balanced, with the AK Party together with the MHP winning exactly 50.0 percent. In the presidential vote, it saw Erdogan winning 51.4 percent.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES
The move to throw high profile ministers into the parliamentary race could have a major impact on the composition of next cabinet.
“Under normal circumstances, those who are in the (parliamentary) list will not be appointed ministers,” a senior AK Party official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Finance Minister Naci Agbal was not named as a parliamentary candidate, and three sources said he was expected to remain in the post-election cabinet.
However, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci is expected to leave the cabinet and run for a mayoral office, the sources said, while the future of Mehmet Simsek, deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy, was undecided.
Investors have been watching closely for signals about Simsek’s role. As a former investment banker in New York and London, he is seen as one of the most investor-friendly members of a government at odds with economic orthodoxy.
The Turkish lira, already one of the weakest emerging market currencies this year, has lost another 13 percent against the dollar since Erdogan said in London last week that he planned to take greater control of the economy and that the central bank would not be able to ignore signals from the new executive presidency.
“Erdogan will make the last call on Simsek. Although Simsek’s policies are sometimes criticized, everyone knows that it’s hard to replace him,” an AK Party official said.
Simsek congratulated those on the party’s parliamentary list on Tuesday, adding in a tweet: “Onwards, no stopping.”
Officials say economic management is expected to be overseen by one of five vice presidents in a cabinet made up of 14 ministers — down from the current 21.
The changes have not yet been finalized, however, and may not be completed before the election, one of the AK Party officials said.