Agence France Presse
BAGHDAD: Iraq Monday authorized foreigners stranded in Iraqi Kurdistan after an international flight ban to leave the country via Baghdad despite not having a federal visa.
Foreigners who had entered the northern autonomous region on regional visas not recognized by Baghdad could previously not travel to other parts of Iraq.
“Any person can leave the country via Baghdad without paying a fine for an exit visa,” Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji told journalists.
Baghdad ordered the suspension of international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan from Friday in retaliation for the Kurds voting for independence earlier last week. A top ministry official said he would facilitate journalist visas, which usually take at least a month to process.
A Kurdish official said, following tensions over the Kurds’ vote, Iranian and Iraqi forces staged joint military exercises Monday near the border with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. The measures included Iran announcing an indefinite ban on the transport of oil and energy products to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.
An Iranian official said Monday that some 600 full fuel tankers were now blocked by Iranian customs from crossing the border.
“Iraqi and Iranian units began exercises at 11 a.m. with tanks and infantry only 250 meters from the border,” said Shwan Abu Bakr, the Kurdish customs chief at the Bashmakh border post.
“Iraqi forces are dressed in black and there is a large number of Iranian forces,” he said, the black uniforms indicating that the Iraqi forces were from the country’s elite Counter Terrorism Service.