Netherlands PM asked Abadi to lift Kurdistan flight ban

Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte © EU2017EE Estonian Presidency

Netherlands’ Prime Minister said he has called on Baghdad to lift the flight ban on the Kurdistan Region airports, he confirmed on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels where European leaders urged normalization of Erbil’s and Baghdad’s damaged relations.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Rudaw he had asked Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the sidelines of the Paris Climate Summit to re-open the Region’s airports, notably Erbil.

Baghdad imposed a ban on international flights in and out of the Kurdistan Region’s two airports as part of efforts to exert federal control over the Region. Kurdish leaders have described the ban as “collective punishment.”

Erbil has made several concessions – including stating its respect for court rulings that deemed the referendum unconstitutional and cancelling its result – and repeatedly asserted it is ready to sit at the table and hold talks with Baghdad under the framework of the constitution.

Baghdad has so far resisted committing to talks with the KRG, despite global pressure.

Erbil-Baghdad ties are an important issue for Europe to consider, Chancellor of Austria Christian Kern told Rudaw.

Ties between the two governments were strained when the Kurdistan Region held a referendum on independence and further deteriorated when Baghdad reacted with force and punitive measures after the vote.

As part of international efforts to bring Erbil-Baghdad closer to the negotiating table British Prime Minister Theresa May invited KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani for a meeting in the United Kingdom at some future date, and promised “to fight” to protect Kurdish identity and rights in Iraq.

The President of France has previously offered to mediate talks between Erbil and Baghdad.

The bulk of the European countries did not back Kurdistan’s independence referendum and expressed their support for a unified Iraq.

European leaders also said they will continue to support the country in the war against ISIS.

Rutte said his country was currently discussing extending its work in Iraq to continue providing military supplies for the fight against ISIS through 2018. The Netherlands is a member of the US-led global coalition.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said his country had been assisting Iraq for a long time now and would continue to help rebuild it.

Romania, also a coalition member, has assisted in training and advising Iraq security forces in the fight against ISIS and has provided humanitarian aid in Iraq and Syria.

Germany’s parliament on Tuesday voted to continue training Peshmerga through to April 2018, allocating 6.9 million euros funding for the program.

Source: Rudaw

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