Erbil airport faces closure due to flight ban
Erbil’s international airport faces possible closure -- even for domestic flights -- due to an ongoing ban on international flights imposed by Iraq’s central government, according to an airport source, APA reports quoting Anadolu.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, Erbil Airport General Director Talar Faiq Salih criticized the recent decision by Iraq’s civil aviation authorities to extend the flight ban for a further three months.
Since last September, international airports in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah -- both of which are located in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region -- have been operational for domestic flights only.
What’s more, according to Salih, Iraqi Airways -- Iraq’s national carrier -- has not paid for its landings at the Erbil airport (for flights originating from Baghdad) since the ban went into effect some five months ago.
“The amount Baghdad owes us [for landing at the airport] currently stands at some $37 million,” Salih said.
The international flight ban was first imposed late last year in response to an illegitimate poll on regional independence carried out by the Erbil-based Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
Immediately after the referendum, federal forces moved into several parts of Iraq “disputed” between Baghdad and the KRG, including the oil-rich Kirkuk province.
Before the poll, most regional actors -- including Turkey -- had voiced opposition to the referendum, with many warning that it would further destabilize the already volatile region.
Saad al-Hadisi, an Iraqi government spokesman, told Anadolu Agency this week that the ban on international flights would be lifted once Erbil handed over control of the airports to federal authorities.
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