BAGHDAD (AA) - International flights into and out of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region will resume once the central government reasserts full control there, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Monday.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle's Arabic-language television channel, al-Abadi spoke about the tense relations that currently prevail between Baghdad and Erbil, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)'s administrative capital.
"The people of the Kurdish region are a part of Iraq and fall within the scope of a united Iraq,” he said.
“There was a referendum [last September] on the secession of the Kurdish region [from the Iraqi state],” he added. “This referendum clearly failed and resulted in regional instability.”
“In order to eliminate this instability, we want to support our citizens in the Kurdish region as we support our citizens in other parts of Iraq," al-Abadi asserted.
"Government offices and security forces in the Kurdish region should serve the people, not a particular party," he said.
The prime minister went on to assert that Baghdad was willing to pay the salaries of KRG employees, but first wanted to ensure that the funds “don’t fall into the hands of other parties”.
Noting that the Kurdish region’s two main airports -- in the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah -- were still operating domestic flights, al-Abadi said: "The central government will allow international flights once we have established full control of these airports.”
He added: “We believe this will happen in the near-term future.”
“Talks are ongoing in this regard; we are now in the final phase,” the prime minister said.
“The Kurdish region has enjoyed semi-autonomy from Iraq since 1991,” he added. “Now we are looking to reunite the country."