Iraq to halt flights with Kurdistan in retaliation for referendum

Abadi during a ministerial meeting. Archival photo.

Baghdad ( Iraq decided on Tuesday to halt flights with Kurdistan in response to a referendum the autonomous region has held for independence from the country.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his government decided in a weekly meeting on Tuesday to halt flights with Kurdistan and block international flights to the region if the government in Erbil fails, in the coming three days, to abide by a decision by Baghdad to hand over control over airports in Kurdish-held regions to Iraq.

Abadi has repeatedly threatened Erbil with legal measures if it proceeded with the divisive referendum which he deems “unconstitutional”. The parliament had ordered the government to reclaim control over airports and to deploy troops at Kurdish-held areas.

Kurds headed to polling stations Monday to partake in the vote called for by the Kurdish government headed by President Masud Barzani.

Holding the vote has triggered a regional outcry, with Baghdad demanding world countries to approach it regarding airports and borders controlled by Erbil. Iran closed aviation with Kurdistan, and has also warned that holding the referendum would mean a closure of borders with Kurdistan and an abrogation of security cooperation. Turkish President Recep Erdogan also threatened on Tuesday of economic sanctions on Kurdistan that would make its citizens “starve”, including a blocking of oil pipelines and cross-border trade.


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