Iraq Extends Kurdistan International Flight Ban

Kurdistan, Turkey, airport
The entrance of Erbil International Airport on November 23, 2015. Photo: Safin Hamed, AFP

Iraqi authorities have extended through February 28 an international flight ban slapped on the autonomous Kurdistan region in response to an independence vote, an airport official said Thursday.

Talar Faiq Saleh, the director of the airport in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital Erbil, said the Transport Ministry in Baghdad had sent a message signaling that international flights were “banned until February 28.”

“Only internal flights are authorized,” she said.

Baghdad severed Iraqi Kurdistan’s air links to the outside world in late September after it voted overwhelmingly for independence in 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.

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.