ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Erbil International Airport (EIA) issued a statement on Thursday claiming the Federal Government in Baghdad plans on closing the Kurdistan Region’s airspace for three months.
The international flight ban is expected to come into effect on Friday, Sep. 29 at 6:00 p.m. as a response to Monday’s referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region, which Baghdad vehemently opposed.
The statement added the “no-fly zone” imposed by Baghdad is intended to last until Dec. 29.
“EIA has been seeking further dialogue with the authorities in Baghdad, regarding its determination to see both Erbil and Sulaimani airports ‘handed over,’” the statement read.
Echoing the words of the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Transportation, the EIA stressed it has “always cooperated with the federal regulator, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA),” and that the Kurdish airports remain under the supervision of the ICAA.
“The imposition of a ‘no-fly zone’ for Kurdistan’s airports will bring hardship to the region,” the EIA Director-General said.
“It will impact the fight against [the Islamic State (IS)], and will impact the work of the UN and other Non-Governmental Organizations in their support of the 1.5 million plus refugees and IDP’s in Kurdistan,” he noted.
“We would appeal to Baghdad to step back from its proposed actions and consider the consequences for the war against IS, the care of so many displaced people and the real impact on the Kurdish people,” he concluded.
The Iraqi General Directorate of Civil Aviation announced the ban after Kurdish authorities said they saw no reason to hand over the control of its airports and border crossings to Baghdad, a demand imposed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as a result of the vote.
The US State Department on Tuesday criticized Abadi’s ultimatum, calling for constructive engagement and dialogue with Kurdistan.
Domestic flights, however, will not be affected by the ban.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany