Flight ban on Kurdish capital

Sergio Conner
October 1, 2017

Numbering 30 million, Kurds make up a sizable minority in a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

The rift between the Iraqi government and Kurdish leaders vying for independence grew wider Friday, with Baghdad imposing a ban on global flights to airports operated by the Kurds.

The Iraqi army chief of staff traveled to Iran and Turkey last week to coordinate the move.

A group of about 200 young people gathered nearby with Kurdish flags and colourful balloons which read "Yes for Kurdistan" in both English and Arabic.

Already, low-priced carrier FlyDubai says it is halting flights from Saturday, as is Qatar Airways.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan yesterday said Iraqi Kurdish authorities would pay the price for an independence referendum which was widely opposed by foreign powers.

Touching on the Astana process, brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran, Jazayeri said: "We see that cooperation between Iran, Turkey and Russia is increasing".

"Sit still! You are at the helm in northern Iraq, you have money, wealth and everything, you have oil", Erdogan said.

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The referendum has stirred fears of a new regional conflict. "The military authorities of the Republic of Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which are the two big countries in the region, came together after years with the visit to Turkey by Iranian Chief of Staff Brig".

The State Department said it was "deeply disappointed" the vote had gone ahead.

The Doha-based carrier is the only one of the three main Gulf airlines that fly into Irbil.

Iraq's Transport Ministry ordered global airlines to halt service to Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital, and Sulaimaniyah, its second city, beginning Friday evening.

Morocco has expressed its opposition to the independence of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, following a referendum in which the local population massively voted for separation from Iraq.

Low-priced carrier FlyDubai said it is halting flights from tomorrow.

Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi said, "Any measure taken by the government will take into account the interests of the Kurdish people". A Kurdish official at the Turkish border crossing described the situation there as "tense".

He indicated that there would be no negotiation with the responsible kurds, as long as they do not declare the referendum results null and void and do not call in Baghdad the border crossings, airports, and the disputed regions where they have deployed their forces.

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