Iraq has imposed a ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region since late September after the Kurdish referendum on independence held on September 25, 2017. File photo: Iraqi airways
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish pilgrims wishing to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah must use state-owned Iraqi Airways, increasing the cost of the trip by $200 per person, a Kurdish official claimed.
Iraq agreed to partially lift the existing ban on international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region in February by exempting Muslims who want to perform the non-mandatory Umrah pilgrim to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The Government of Iraq, however, has "manipulated" the market in favour of Iraqi Airways by excluding all other airlines, Nabaz Ismail, spokesperson for the KRG’s religious affairs ministry, told Rudaw on Thursday.
The condition imposed by Iraq means that the trip costs $900, while it was $700 last year, the official added.
About 4,000 people have registered their names in the Kurdistan Region to visit Mecca for Umrah since the Iraqi government resumed direct flights from Kurdish airports to Saudi Arabia for religious reasons, according to official figures.
The first Umrah flights left Sulaimani on Wednesday and took off from Erbil on Thursday.
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