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.


Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

Russian soldiers distribute aid in the central Syrian province of Homs. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

  • A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west
  • The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone

MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was coordinating efforts to help Syrian refugees return home and rebuild the country’s infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said in a conference call that included Russian and Syrian officials that work is underway to rebuild dozens of Syria’s power stations, schools and other vital institutions.
In Damascus, Syrian Public Administration Minister Hussein Makhlouf pledged the regime would protect refugee property rights and grant returning refugees a year’s deferral from military conscription.
“The Syrian government is working to simplify procedures for refugees who return, repair housing and try to create new jobs,” Makhlouf said, adding that the authorities were also working to streamline legislation to facilitate refugee returns.
He dismissed as hostile “propaganda” claims that some refugees were facing arrests on their return.
Makhlouf called on Western nations to drop their sanctions against Damascus, introduced early in the seven-year conflict, in order to help post-war restoration and encourage the return of the refugees.
Mizintsev said that over 1.2 million of internally displaced Syrians and about 300,000 refugees have returned in the past two and a half years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin might take part in a summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran at the beginning of September.
The three leaders met in April at a summit in Ankara where they discussed developments in Syria.
With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Assad’s regime has expelled fighters from large parts of Syria’s south since June.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence along its border. A series of airstrikes that killed Iranians inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.
A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west.
The Russian army’s Lt.-Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters on an organized press tour this week how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.
Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” in its southern tip, the demilitarized zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police,” Kuralenko said.
“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.
After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.
The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.
They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone,” he said.