Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told press that he will only lift the flight ban for Kurdistan if the conditions put forth are met. He said, “If the conditions are met, I will open [the airports] tomorrow. If the conditions are not met, they will not be opened in five years or even 10 years. I am being honest,” during press conference yesterday. The flight ban was put in place after the Kurdish vote for independence and the turn over of Kirkuk to Iraq supported military forces. Talks between the Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi central government have been ongoing since the start of the ban. Abadi stressed that, “We are close to the conditions being met. I do not want the Kurdish citizens to be punished. They are our citizens.”
After the vote for Independence saw a vote of 92 percent support in favor of separation from the Iraqi government, Abadi has done everything in his power to impose federal control over Kurdistan. Abadi continued his press statement with, “We continue in strengthening the authority of the federal government… in all of Iraq, including the crossings, and the crossings of the Kurdistan Region, the airports in Sulaimani and Erbil.” The leadership within the Kurdish Regional Government have expressed their contempt for the flight ban as a disciplinary measure that has been detrimental for the citizens of Kurdistan and their travel needs. Abadi has denied the accusations that the ban is a siege on Kurdistan and defended the decision by reminding Kurdish leaders that domestic flights were still available to citizens.
Prime Minister Abadi finished his statement with, “The ban has affected international flights and for a simple reason. Because this is an international entry point, and based on the constitution, international entry points fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government,” and that Kurdistan, “has shown total readiness to agree on the presence of a federal security force in the airports, federal passports authority, federal customs authority, and that the federal government has authority over the airports; we are currently working on the latter steps. We will open the airports when all of our conditions have been fully met.”
Alistar Burt, the British Middle East Minister, tole the UK House of Commons, “The issue of the airport is foremost in the discussions between the respective Prime Ministers, and there is a recognition that if the arrangements for the airport could be changed, that would make a difference. It is essential for the future of a Kurdish region in Iraq that it is stable and secure and that rights are honored on both sides, and that the constitution is seen to be effective.” Whether or not the Kurdish Regional Government will meet the “conditions: put forth by the Iraqi government in the near future remains to be seen.