Baghdad ends air blockade on Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraq has lifted the ban on worldwide flights to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) airports, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement on March 13.

Kurdish authorities confirmed that airports in Iraqi Kurdistan will return to federal Iraqi control and would report to Baghdad's Interior Ministry.

Global flights to and from the region's two main airports have been halted since September 29, part of sanctions imposed on the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region after it conducted an independence referendum in defiance of Baghdad's wishes.

The formal lifting of the blockade will take place in the next few days, Abadi's spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told the news agency Agence France-Presse.

The independence of Kurdistan is opposed not only by the Iraqi central government, but also by other countries as it would threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq and undermine the fight against the terror group Islamic State.

The sources informed of the death of brigadier general Sharif Ismail, the commander of Brigade 57 of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's guards, following clashes with Saraya al-Salam in Salahuddin, Shafaq News reported.

The referendum was vehemently rejected by the central government and Iraq's other neighbours, ratcheting up tensions in the region on the heels of military victories against the ISIL.

In October 2017, Iraqi federal forces retook control of the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk and many disputed territories in response to the Kurdish referendum. The Iraqi parliament recently approved the 2018 budget in the absence of Kurdish MPs, who boycotted the meeting in protest at the cut in finances allocated to the region.

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