ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Baghdad has agreed to allow flights between airports in the Kurdistan Region and Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah in Mecca, a Kurdish lawmaker said on Tuesday.
Umrah is the non-mandatory lesser pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca, which may be performed at any time of the year.
“The Iraqi government has agreed to re-open both Erbil and Sulaimani airports for people in the Kurdistan Region who want to perform Umrah in Mecca,” Adil Nouri, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament, told Kurdistan 24.
Annually, tens of thousands of people in the Kurdistan Region perform Umrah, but the number has decreased substantially over the past few years, according to data released by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“The flights will be direct from the Kurdistan Region to Saudi Arabia,” he said, stating the international flight ban is still in effect for all other passenger flights.
The Kurdish lawmaker labeled it as a good step toward reaching an agreement to lift international flight ban permanently.
In response to the KRG’s referendum on independence held on Sept. 25, the Iraqi government banned international flights from/to both Erbil and Sulaimani airports four days later.
In spite of international pressure to lift the international flight ban, it continues to be in effect.
Abadi has said that the ban will not be removed until the Iraqi governmental committee tasked with assessing the situation and negotiating with the Kurdistan Regional Government finishes their tasks in the region. Baghdad has not set a date for the resumption of international flights at the two airports located in the Kurdistan Region.