ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities extended their flight ban on the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani for another three months, Sulaimani Airport Director Tahir Abdullah said on Monday.
“Despite all efforts by the concerned entities” in Sulaimani to sway the northern neighbor on the issue, “the Turkish authorities again renewed their ban on Sulaimani airport,” Abdullah said.
Ankara’s embargo would continue until March 24 of the coming year, he added.
Following the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum in September 2017, Turkey halted all international flights to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. A few months later, in March 2018, Ankara decided to resume flights to the capital of Erbil but did not include Sulaimani and its airport.
Turkish officials, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, accused both Gorran (Change) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – whose strongholds are in the Sulaimani province – of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish group fighting for broader rights in Turkey which Ankara, the US, and the EU have designated a “terrorist” organization.
Both Gorran and PUK officials have rejected Turkey’s accusations.
In an apparent move to improve ties with Turkey, the PUK began a campaign to close the offices of a party with ties to the PKK.
Following the closure of four of the group’s offices, Turkey welcomed the PUK move, saying it was a step in the “right direction” but “insufficient.”
In early December, another official from Sulaimani airport criticized the Iraqi government for its inaction toward Ankara’s continued ban.
“Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority is negligent and careless toward the resolution of the Turkish government to stop flights to Sulaimani airport,” Dana Mohammed, director of media and public relations at Sulamani International Airport, said.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany