Friday, 20 October, 2017

Turkey halts flights to 2 cities in Iraqi Kurdish region

Kurds celebrate to show their support for the independence referendum in Duhok Iraq Four security personnel killed in operation against PKK in Turkey's east
Christy Curtis | 30 September, 2017, 01:17

The non-binding referendum in the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan and some disputed areas was held in defiance of Baghdad, which declared it illegal, and despite worldwide objections. The report did not elaborate.

The cut in foreign air links is Baghdad's first retaliatory measure for Monday's 92 percent "yes" vote in the non-binding referendum for independence held by the KRG.

The Kurdish region's economy is highly dependent on imports from Turkey and Iran.

Hoshyar Zebari, who helped lead the referendum drive in the Kurdish region and was formerly Iraq's foreign minister, said that criticism of the vote from the United States had "emboldened Baghdad" to take a hard-line position toward the Kurds. On Wednesday Abadi told Iraqi lawmakers that he will "enforce the rule of the federal authority in the Kurdish region with the power of the constitution", while adding that he doesn't want "a fight between the Iraqi citizens". The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan.

Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey all have sizable Kurdish populations and have had to deal for years with Kurdish restiveness and calls for autonomy.

The Iraqi parliament even asked the government to send troops into the Kurdish areas.

- By Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Bradley Klapper in Washington D.C.

Kurdish forces have also availed themselves of the opportunity the war offered to gain or solidify control over northern territory claimed by both them and Baghdad.

MEA chairman Mohammed al-Hout confirmed "the suspension of all flights to and from Arbil from Friday, upon the request of the Iraqi aviation authorities for the halt of all global fights to and from the airport".

Mr. Ali said the Kurds were hopeful that worldwide allies would eventually come around to the idea of Kurdish independence, and said they were heartened at some individual voices praising the referendum result.

Iraq's central government has ordered a halt to all global flights to and from the autonomous region from 6:00 pm (local time) on Friday after Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence.

The ban on global flights servicing airports in the Kurdish region is set to go into effect.

"We strongly condemn this disgusting action", she said. "An airport isn't an item that can be handed over to someone". Newspapers in Baghdad and hard-line elements within the central government latched on to the news of Israel's support, dubbing the Kurdish region "a second Zionist entity". Pre-approved humanitarian flights will be exempt.

Passengers flying to Arbil wait to check-in for their flight at Ataturk International airport in Istanbul yesterday. The ban was scheduled to kick in Friday evening.

At Irbil's airport, numerous passengers were foreigners who said they were traveling to avoid possibly being stuck once the flight ban goes into effect Friday.

Villar says he hopes he's able to return to finish his work.

Iraq, including the Kurdish region, was Turkey's third-largest export market in 2016, worth $8.6 billion.

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