Northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has called on the United Nations and the federal government in Baghdad to lift an air embargo imposed on the region following this week’s controversial independence referendum. A flight ban on the region came into effect on Friday after Erbil rejected a call by Baghdad to surrender control of the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports to the federal government, the Anadolu Agency reports. The KRG described the embargo as a “collective punishment”, adding that the move would distract from the ongoing fight against the ISIS. “The ban would hinder visits by patients and those injured in the fight against Daesh for medical treatment abroad,” the Anadolu Agency quoted KRG spokesman Safin Dizayi, as saying on Friday.
The move has come amid tension between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan over the latter’s decision to hold a referendum on Monday on whether to secede from Iraq. The above-mentioned referendum in northern Iraq had faced sharp opposition from most regional and international actors, fuelling concerns that the poll would further destabilise the Middle East. Almost 93 per cent of voters had cast ballots in favour of independence from Iraq.