Iraq to reopen Kurdish airports to international flights

Iraq map showing Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region

Iraq map showing Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region

The announcement comes some six months after the airports were initially shut to worldwide flights following a controversial referendum vote in northern Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region that overwhelmingly backed independence from Baghdad.

Airports in Iraq's Kurdish region were reopened to worldwide flights after federal authority was restored at the hubs, said Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi on Tuesday.

The airports are due to open "within a few days" government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told The Associated Press.

Al-Abadi said a higher committee will be formed "to oversee the management of the Kurdish region's airports to ensure their compliance with the federal government's standards".

The referendum was vehemently rejected by Baghdad and Iraq's other neighbors, ratcheting up tensions in the region on the heels of military victories against the Daesh group.

The referendum was held despite strong opposition from Baghdad, the worldwide community, and Iraq's neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.

Relations between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) have remained tense since last September, when the KRG held an illegitimate referendum on regional independence.

However, Iraqi parliament remains deeply divided, raising fears of a protracted government formation process following national elections.

According to Iraqi law, the annual budget must be approved by the Iraqi presidency following the parliamentary approval.

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