Erbil International Airport was empty after the flight ban came into effect. Photo: EIA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The flight ban imposed on the Kurdistan Region by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been extended by three months
Talar Faiq, the head of the Erbil International Airport, told Rudaw on Monday that the decision to block international flights to and from the Kurdish airports has been extended until May 31.
It was set to expire on Wednesday. The ban affects international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region's international airports in Erbil and Sulaimani, forcing passengers to obtain an Iraqi visa to transit through Basra or Baghdad.
Omed Mohammed Salih, the spokesperson for the KRG’s Transportation Ministry said “given the steps the Kurdistan Region and Iraq took to get close to each other, we did not expect the closure of the airports be extended by three more months.”
Salih, however, was optimistic for the airports being re-opened before the deadline.
“This decree is from the Iraqi Civil Aviation, it could be changed with a decree from Haider al-Abadi,” he asserted.
He explained the three-month extension will not strip the two Kurdish airports of their internationality.
“Granting international identity to any airports comes from a set of measures which the World Aviation Organization provides," he said, explaining that the Erbil and Sulaimani airports do not lose their international recognition just because they have closed down for a specific period of time.
People in the Kurdistan Region view the flight ban as punishment for holding the September 25 referendum on independence, as Abadi imposed the international flight ban days later.
Iraqi elections are set for May 12.
Updated at 3:45 p.m.