Al Abadi visits Kurdistan amid spat over referendum

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi on Thursday arrived in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, months after the autonomous Kurdish region held a referendum on independence that angered Baghdad.
Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani welcomed Al Abadi at the Erbil airport, Al Abadi’s media office said. No further details were provided.
Al Abadi flew to Erbil from Sulaimaniya, Kurdistan’s second-largest city. He visited Sulaimaniya on Wednesday as part of a campaign promoting his electoral list in the run-up to Iraq’s legislative elections scheduled for May 12.
Al Abadi’s current trip to Kurdistan is his first to the enclave since September, when Kurdistan and disputed areas controlled by Iraqi Kurds held the independence referendum.
The Iraqi government responded by imposing sanctions on Kurdistan, including a ban on international flights to and from the landlocked territory. Iraqi forces also took over the oil-producing city of Kirkuk following the withdrawal of Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces in October. The measures aggravated economic problems in Kurdistan.
Baghdad lifted the ban on flights to and from Kurdistan in March in a sign of easing tensions between Baghdad and Erbil. — dpa