Iraq extends Kurdistan international flight ban

Baghdad severed Iraqi Kurdistan’s air links to outside world in late September after independence vote

17:05 December 28, 2017

ARBIL, Iraq — Iraqi authorities have extended through February an international flight ban slapped on the autonomous Kurdish region in response to a controversial independence vote, an airport official said Thursday.

Baghdad severed Iraqi Kurdistan’s air links to the outside world in late September after it voted overwhelmingly for independence at a non-binding referendum rejected as illegal by the central government.

The flight ban was just part of a battery of punishment inflicted on the Kurds as Baghdad sought to nullify the poll, with federal forces also seizing disputed oil-rich regions in a major blow for their finances.

Talar Faiq Saleh, the director of the airport in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Arbil, said the transport ministry in Baghdad had sent a message signalling that international flights were “banned until February 28”.

“Only internal flights are authorised,” she said.

The two-month extension sees Baghdad keeping up the pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan as the fallout from the failed independence push has battered its economy.

A spate of angry protests that have seen the offices of political parties torched in a string of towns has rocked the region this month.