ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An airport official in the Kurdistan Region on Friday criticized the Iraqi government for its inaction toward Ankara's continued ban on flights to and from Turkey and the city of Sulaimani.
"Iraq's Civil Aviation Authority is negligent and careless toward the resolution of the Turkish government to stop flights to Sulaimani airport," said Dana Mohammed, director of media and public relations at Sulamani International Airport.
The comments came in a statement, released on International Civil Aviation Day.
Baghdad, he said, had so far taken no action to "pressure" its northern neighbor, despite its capability to make Ankara capitulate by imposing a halt on Turkish flights to other Iraqi airports, claimed Mohammed.
Following last year’s Sept. 25 independence referendum in the Kurdistan Region, multiple neighboring countries halted all international flights to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region amid a flight ban imposed by Baghdad. Months later, in March 2018, Ankara resumed flights to the regional capital of Erbil but did not include Sulaimani and its airport.
Negotiations are reported to be ongoing between officials from Sulaimani and their counterparts in Ankara who have long alleged that the two most prominent parties in Sulaimani actively provide support to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group fighting a decade's long insurgency against Turkey over Kurdish rights. The PKK is designated as a "terrorist" organization by the US, Turkey, and NATO.
Among the parties with significant authority over local Asayish (security) and Peshmerga forces in Sulaimani is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the leadership of which was recently alleged to have ordered the closure multiple headquarters of another party thought to have close ties with the PKK.
The closures were welcomed by Ankara and were followed by a senior Turkish diplomat in the Kurdistan Region telling reporters that the "PUK move" was a step in the "right direction," but was "insufficient."
In late September, Ankara extended its flight ban on Sulaimani for an additional three months.
Editing by John J. Catherine