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Kurds refuse to hand over airports to Iraq government

A street sign in northern Iraq's Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah.
A street sign in northern Iraq's Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah.

The Kurdistan Regional Government today refused to hand control of the international airports in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah to the federal government in Baghdad.

Kurdish Transport Minister Mowlud Murad said: "The two airports have not committed any violations of the laws and decisions issued by the Federal Civil Aviation Authority."

"All domestic and international flights to and from the region are subject to the authority and instructions of federal aviation," he added.

He warned that the Iraqi government's decision "will hurt Kurdistan's economy".

"The closure of borders in the region will affect the lives of people inside and outside Iraq, because the two airports are working to transport patients and students and help organisations deliver international assistance to displaced people."

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"We are ready to implement the Civil Aviation Authority's decision, but if the Iraqi government's decision is punitive against the backdrop of the referendum, then dialogue will not work."

The Iraqi Council of Ministers decided, during a meeting yesterday, to hand control of the Kurdistan region's airports to the central government authority and gave Erbil three days to comply.

According to the decision, if Erbil does not comply, Baghdad will ban flights to and from the region.

Around five million residents of the Iraqi Kurdish region turned to the ballot boxes to vote for separation from Iraq on Monday. News reports said that the turnout rate was 72 per cent.

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