Turkey opens air space for flights to Arbil: PM
Turkey has opened its air space for flights to Arbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said.
“We closed down our airspace following northern Iraq’s referendum. We are opening our airspace as of today,” Yildirim told reporters in Ankara on March 23.
However, air space will be closed for flights to Sulaymaniyah, he said, citing security reasons.
An international flight ban had been imposed late last year in response to an independence referendum carried out by the KRG. The joint stance against the KRG vote, which the Arbil administration was later forced to freeze, was a milestone in Turkey-Iraq relations, which had previously been strained.
Before the poll, most regional actors - including Turkey – had voiced opposition to the referendum, with many warning that it would further destabilize an already volatile region.
Yildirim also said commercial flights would be available from both Turkey and Europe to Arbil.
The decision came a week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraq had lifted a ban on international flights to airports in the KRG on March 13.
“Kurdistan’s regional airports will be under the command of the Federal Ministry of the Interior,” al-Abadi’s statement read.
Turkey and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad are currently said to be in talks over a joint operation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq.
Yildirim said his country would press ahead with military strikes against the PKK in northern Iraq “as long as threats to Turkey continue.”
Ankara said this week its military may mount an offensive against the PKK in Iraq’s Sinjar region “if the Iraqi government does not act” against the group.