Maliki warns neighbors over violations of Iraqi airspace

Maliki warns neighbors over violations of Iraqi airspace
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a warning to his neighbors on Tuesday for what he said are "frequent violations of Iraqi airspace," adding that his administration will not remain silent in the face of these violations Today`s Zaman reported

Noting that every day they hear of the aircraft of neighboring countries violating their airspace, he added that "the national sovereignty of Iraq is being violated deliberately or non-deliberately." He added: "We do not approve of that and we cannot remain silent in the face of that. Others should question themselves on Iraq's sovereignty, security, airspace and territorial waters."

The Iraqi prime minister did not specify the countries he was referring to, but he may have been referring to Turkey as the Turkish military regularly carries out cross-border aerial and ground operations against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.

His statements also came hours after three Turkish passenger planes were stranded at Erbil International Airport after Iraqi aviation authorities closed Iraqi airspace off to all flights. Two Turkish Airlines (THY) planes and a Pegasus Airlines flight were grounded at Arbil's airport for eight hours as they waited for permission to take off. Iraqi authorities reopened the country's airspace later in the day.

While the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority stated that flights had been grounded due to a technical failure in the country's radar system, there were also reports that only flights to Turkey and Saudi Arabia had been held up, while other flights were continuing as scheduled.

The Iraqi move comes on the heels of recent tensions between the Turkish and the Iraqi central governments over the former's oil deal with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north of Iraq. Earlier this month, Iraq's Kurds announced that they have started exporting crude oil and gas to Turkey.

The goal is to barter it for refined petroleum products to meet domestic demand. The deal is part of a bigger agreement the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) negotiated and signed with Turkey in May without going through Baghdad. The agreement envisions the Kurdish region exporting not only oil but natural gas through a web of pipelines through Turkish territory to the international market.

Baghdad warned Turkey on Sunday that its separate oil deal with the regional Kurdish administration could damage trade relations. "Exporting oil from the Kurdistan region to Turkey is illegal and illegitimate," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement. "The oil and gas are the property of all Iraqis and those exports and revenues must be managed by the federal government, which represents all Iraqis."

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