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Kurdish airports open for international flights, Iraqi PM says

Passengers arrive at Erbil International Airport, Iraq

Airports in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq will be reopened to international air traffic on Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadia declared in a statement issued by his office.

International flights to and from the region’s two main airports, in Erbil and Suleimaniya, were halted on Sept 29 as part of sanctions imposed on the Kurds after they held an independence referendum four days earlier in defiance of Baghdad and voted overwhelmingly for separation.

Kurdish authorities have agreed that the airports should come under federal control and report to Baghdad’s interior ministry, the prime minister’s statement said.

Only domestic flights have been allowed through the region’s airports, with foreign airlines suspending their routes in accordance with an order from the central government.

Lifting the embargo comes amid a continuing dispute over the country’s federal budget. Kurdish lawmakers boycotted a vote to pass it, in protest over their region’s diminished allocation.

Top Iraqi government financial officials met with Kurdish regional officials this week in an attempt to settle differences over regional bank operations and civil servant salaries.

Officials in Baghdad say paying civil servants working for the Kurdistan Regional Government is expected to start this month.

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