Erbil International Airport has welcomed the decision of the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to lift its ban on commercial planes from the US flying into Kurdistan.
The ban, imposed in 1996, for safety and security reasons has been in place for 16 years. The decision will benefit private jets, and cargo services in particular.
The FAA said in a statement: "The FAA has determined that flights by US operators may now be conducted safely into Erbil and Sulaymaniyah Airports under certain conditions."
Flights from the US will still be subject to approval from the US Transportation Security Administration and from Iraq's regulator, the Iraqi Civilian Aviation Authority.
Airport Director Talar Faiq said:
"The lifting of the ban after 16 years is a boost to the region and tribute to the work of the KRG to make Kurdistan a safe place to live and to do business. We at Erbil International Airport welcome the move and look forward to welcoming US registered planes in the coming months and years. The move enables us to enhance the connectivity profile of the airport and is a vote of confidence for all of us.
"We trust that the flight permissions from ICAA will be forthcoming in the event US commercial flights, that satisfy regulations and follow due process, request landing slots..
"The move by the US authorities will perhaps persuade other states, notably the UK, whose ban on its registered aircraft coming to Iraq, is still in place, that it is time too, to lift such prohibitions."
Dori Abouzeid, CEO of private jet company MACair who handles private jet flights into Erbil also welcomed the news:
"We have been talking with the US State Department for some time about the ban. It is great news that the ban has now been lifted and we look forward to offering a five star service to US regsitered private jets, their crew and passengers in the coming months and years.
"We, as a company, can now bring in a range of aircraft, subject to the usual permissions from the ICAA, and offer lease and hire services to customers in Iraq and Kurdistan in particular.
For sometime now, the rhetoric of the US State department about doing business in Iraq and encouraging US firms to invest has been at odds with the ban. Now, at last, this contradiction has been corrected. It is good news indeed and most welcome."