Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment


Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using





Iraq cuts Kurdistan air links with outside world

By AFP 1/10/2017
Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP
Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP

The Iraqi government cut autonomous Kurdistan's direct air links with the outside world indefinitely on Friday, partially isolating the northern region after it voted a massive "yes" in an independence referendum.


The move increases the pressure on the Iraqi Kurds amid soaring regional tensions following Monday's non-binding but deeply contentious vote.


Washington said it did not recognise the "unilateral" referendum and urged all parties to reject the use of force and engage in dialogue.


"The vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.


The central government in Baghdad had ordered the halt to all foreign flights to and from the autonomous Kurdish region from 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday.


Foreigners scrambled to fly out of the region's capital Arbil and its second largest city Sulaimaniyah before the ban took effect.


Iraqi Kurdish transport minister Mawlud Bawa Murad told AFP at Arbil airport that the ban would "negatively impact all international businesses in the Kurdistan region, in addition to all civilians, from all nations".


It would "negatively impact our daily life," he said. "We will do our best to find a viable alternative, or succeed to bring back international flights."


Arbil is a key gateway for humanitarian aid workers helping Iraqis affected by the battle against the Islamic State group (IS).


Washington said earlier it would be willing to facilitate talks between the Iraqi Kurdish authorities and Baghdad to calm escalating tensions over the 92-percent "yes" vote.


Neighbouring Turkey and Iran also strongly opposed the vote, fearing it would inflame the separatist aspirations of their own sizeable Kurdish populations.


Ankara has threatened a series of measures including blocking lifeline oil exports from the region via Turkey.


The Kurds, whose borders with Turkey, Iran and Syria remain open, have condemned the flight suspension as "collective punishment".


Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said it was not "punishment" but a legal measure that would be reversed if the transport authority was transferred to Baghdad in line with the Iraqi constitution.


The ban saw people, many of them foreigners, flock to Arbil airport to avoid being stranded.


- Kurds rush back -


Iraqi Kurdistan is home to a large international community, most of whom enter on a visa issued by the regional authorities that is not recognised by the central government, so they cannot travel elsewhere in Iraq.


On Friday, around 100 passengers waited eagerly for their planes in Arbil, where the last flight out was to Vienna at 4 pm.


"We were supposed to go back to Brazil next Saturday but we rescheduled our flight," said Isidoro Junior, a 32-year-old volunteer for an NGO providing medical assistance to Iraqis displaced by the war against IS.


The director of Arbil airport, Talar Faiq Salih said humanitarian, military and diplomatic flights were excluded from the ban.


Earlier, the UN humanitarian office OCHA said it was working to ensure aid could continue to reach tens of thousands of needy Iraqis.


In Sulaimaniyah, foreigners and others needing to leave sped to the airport before the ban took effect, while Kurds who were abroad for business or tourism rushed home.


"There have been masses of people for two days," said airport spokesman Dana Mohammad Said, adding that the airport remained open for domestic flights.


- 'Help facilitate' -


Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's highest Shiite religious authority, called for all sides "to abide by the Iraqi constitution and to appeal to High Federal Court to solve the Kurdistan crisis".


"The latest political developments should not have a negative impact on the strong relationship between sons of the homeland, Arabs, Turkmen, Kurds and others," his representative said.


Washington said it would be prepared to "help facilitate a conversation" between Arbil and Baghdad.


"We would like to see some calm on all sides," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, noting that the US had opposed the referendum "because we thought it would be destabilising".


On Thursday, the spokesman for the international coalition fighting IS in Iraq and neighbouring Syria said the referendum had taken focus away from the war against the jihadists.


French President Emmanuel Macron invited al-Abadi to visit Paris on October 5 to discuss the referendum and offered France's help in calming tensions.


"Faced with the priority of fighting Daesh and the stabilisation of Iraq, Iraqis must remain united," the presidency said in a statement, using another name for IS.


Iraqi forces meanwhile launched an assault on the northern town of Hawija, one of the last IS bastions in the country along with a stretch of the Euphrates Valley near the border with Syria.


Kurdish forces have been key allies in US-backed offensives against IS in both Syria and Iraq.


duroi | 1/10/2017
Kurds have passed a sharp corner in the journey to independence. Iraq is fully dependent on Kurds for the flow of waters in Tigris and that is the key to KRG independence. Kurds will guarantee the flow of Tigris southward to Baghdad, in exchange, Kurds want an independent Kurdistan and the guaranteed flow of Kurdish oil; and sweeten the deal with a free trade deal. Start writing the declaration of independence ...
esther noodelman | 1/10/2017
Is it finally the time to accept that we accept the fact that Israels communities be referred to as communities instead of the Hebrew word settlements,,,,a rreal red herring. A rose by any other name is still a rose!!!
Elen | 1/10/2017
duroi: And the Tigris comes from where? I give you a hint, A country with big dams...
Post a New Comment
Comment as a guest or Login for more enhanced interactive experience

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Peter | 10/24/2017 12:12:44 AM
whether the arabs like it or not, in the end the west will back a kurdish state ,because the Wests people have had enough of Arab aggression and the...
duroi | 10/24/2017 4:38:43 AM
Tillerson doesn't have a clue about the evil history of Shiite Arabs of Kufa, Najaf , Karbala and Iraq, 12000 of them invited their Imam Hussein to...
Following Kirkuk fall, Tillerson tells Abadi to avoid ‘confrontation'
| 13 hours ago | (5)
Peter | 10/24/2017 12:17:05 AM
why is it so important for the rest of the world to force Kurds/Christians to have Unity with arabs that have slaughtered them for 1400 yrs,, time to...
Concerned Kurd | 10/24/2017 4:22:47 AM
Important Notice: Iraqi forces are preparing for an attack to open a corridor in the triangle between Kurdistan, Rojava, and Turkey to isolate...
Germany resumes training Kurds, won't 'confirm or deny' MILAN use
| 19 hours ago | (4)
Stewee Guy
Stewee Guy | 10/23/2017 5:02:34 PM
A new KRG government based on the best qualifying Kurdistanies regardless of the candidate family, tribe, religion and gender is a must.
RAFEH | 10/24/2017 4:07:18 AM
Time to stop this madness. Before the Kurdish leadership was full of bravado and intransigence. Now that the table has turned, the Iraqi central...
PM Barzani: Iraqi military operations hinder dialogue
| 18 hours ago | (5)
Jagerxin derashy | 10/24/2017 2:26:46 AM
US has spent billions of dollars on failed Iraq and Iraq army, but Iraqi government teams up with their cousins Iranian at the first opportunity!...
Jagerxin derashy | 10/24/2017 2:30:10 AM
WAKE UP USA before it’s too late!
Hashd commander calls for immediate withdrawal of US forces
| 12 hours ago | (6)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Hashd commander calls for immediate withdrawal of US forces 12 hours ago | (6)

Hashd commander calls for immediate withdrawal of US forces

Hashd commanders have issued several statements more
Following Kirkuk fall, Tillerson tells Abadi to avoid ‘confrontation' 13 hours ago | (5)

Following Kirkuk fall, Tillerson tells Abadi to avoid ‘confrontation'

Tillerson has expressed his country’s call for more
0.437 seconds