ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday called on Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to lift the international flight ban on airports in the Kurdistan Region, imposed since shortly after the Sep. 2017 independence referendum.
Said the French president, in response to a question from a Kurdistan 24 correspondent during a press conference held in Brussels, “We hope that from now, up until the upcoming elections in May, Iraqi PM Abadi will have found all the solutions to achieve the full recognition [of rights] in accordance with the constitution and restore flights to the Kurdistan Region and the legitimate funding Kurds are entitled to expect and obtain through the federal budget, as outlined in the constitution.”
Pointing out that he had recently discussed the issue with Abadi while the Iraqi prime minister was in Paris, he added, “You can count on my determination because I believe it is an indispensable element of stability for Iraq in the long term: the capacity to have a government that’s inclusive and where each party’s rights are recognized and protected.”
Ties between Erbil and Baghdad deteriorated considerably after the Sep. 25 referendum in the Kurdistan Region, which saw an overwhelming majority of those in the region favoring statehood.
Baghdad imposed collective punitive measures against the Kurdistan Region, including banning international flights in both Erbil and Sulaimani airports since Sep. 29 and carrying out a military operation to retake the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, then under the control of Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Even before the referendum, Baghdad has routinely failed to release the budget allocation, and the subject has been fraught with controversy for years.
Kurdish officials have complained that Baghdad is trying to isolate the Kurdistan Region internationally, and to weaken its leadership by crippling the economy of the region.
Last week, wounded Peshmerga, disabled residents, and patients with chronic conditions demonstrated in front of the UN compound in Erbil, calling on the international community to pressure Baghdad into lifting sanctions on the Kurdistan Region. For two days, crowds help up signs and spoke to the press, complaining that the post-referendum sanctions, primarily the international flight ban which has severely limited incoming shipments of medicine, are causing great and undue hardship to those in the region.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Barzan Hassan contributed to this report)