Tahir Abdulla, the head of Sulaimaniyah International Airport, speaks to reporters at a press conference on January 8, 2019. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Turkey failing to lift its flight ban on Sulaymaniyah International Airport has led to travelling, trade, and revenue decreases.
"Turkey's continued flight ban on the Sulaimani airport has led to $5.4 million in damages," Tahir Abdulla, the head of Sulaimani's airport told reporters on Tuesday.
He blamed Baghdad for not doing enough to resolve the issue.
Abdulla added "exports from the Sulaimani airport reduced by 73 percent while imports by 82."
Following the events of October 2017, international airspace to Erbil and Sulaimani's airports was ordered closed by the Iraqi federal government.
Turkey and most other countries opened their airspace to planes bound for Erbil in March 2018.
However, Ankara refused to open its airspace to flights bound for Sulaimani. It claims the dominate party in the province, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The move prevents people — particularly those wanting to travel to Europe or Turkey — from utilizing Sulaimani's airport. They must either first travel to an airport elsewhere in Iraq or in Erbil.
Efforts to appease Turkey have been fruitless, including ordering the closure of offices close to Tavgari Azadi (Kurdistan Free Society Movement), a party close to the PKK.
In 2017, Ankara expelled the PUK’s representative to Turkey after the PKK captured two Turkish intelligence agents in Sulaimani province.
They have not been released.
Abdulla detailed that 5,700 tourists visited the airport's health center last year.
"Last year, 309,000 people travelled through the Sulaimani airport," Abdulla summarized.
Turkey is the Kurdistan Region's largest trading partner followed by Iran.