All foreign flights to and from the Kurdistan Region has been suspended from Friday. Photo:AFP /Safin Hamed
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan government slammed a flight ban enforced by the Iraqi government on foreign flights to and from the Kurdistan Region, calling it “collective punishment” that affects wounded Peshmerga and Yezidi victims of ISIS.
Erbil said they reached out for talks with Baghdad to discuss the issue with their counterparts in the Iraqi government, but their calls fell on deaf ears because Iraq cannot find any regulations violated by the Kurdistan Region.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said the ban is a “political decision.”
“Imposing the decision is a collective punishment and a blockade against the people of Kurdistan that continues the path of humanitarian and legal violations committed against the people of Kurdistan with the excuse of imposing the federal authority of Iraq,” read a statement from the KRG on Friday.
The statement added that Kurdistan’s Erbil and Sulaimani airports have operated under the laws and regulations of Iraqi authorities and per the constitution, since day one. It explained that the airports were under the continued supervision of Iraqi civil aviation authorities.
The KRG said the flight ban affects the transfer of some Peshmerga injured in the fight against ISIS and now need treatment outside the country. This is in addition to the negative impact on the operations of some humanitarian organizations helping Yezidi survivors and other communities who are victims of ISIS atrocities.
It also called on the international community to help stop the move against Erbil, while reminding the world that Baghdad has already deprived the Kurdistan government from the Iraqi budget since early 2014, causing an ongoing financial crisis.
The Iraqi government has said that closing Kurdistan’s borders is not meant to punish the Kurdish people.
“The central government assuming control of land and air borders in the Kurdistan Region is not to starve, prevent funds, or impose a blockade as claimed by some officials of the Kurdistan Region,” a statement from the office of the Iraqi government read earlier on Friday, just as the last international flights were set to take off.
The purpose of the border measures is to bring the movements of people and goods under the control of Iraqi authorities, the statement continued, as is the case around the world to “stop smuggling and prevent corruption.”
The statement did not mention if any illegal activity was being conducted at Kurdistan’s air and land ports.
It said that Iraq is prepared to lift the flight ban if the Kurdish authorities agree to hand over control of the airports to Baghdad, as is the case in every other province in Iraq.
Under the Iraqi constitution, the Kurdistan Region is a recognized federal entity with its own parliament and government. Laws passed by the Iraqi government should first be approved by the Kurdish parliament before they can come into effect.
The Kurdistan government has called on the parliament to hold a session on Saturday to reject the flight ban and other measures taken by the Iraqi government and parliament in response to the independence vote.