Baghdad has imposed a ban on direct international flights to and from the Kurdistan region of Iraq in retaliation for Monday’s (September 25) controversial referendum in which Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence from Baghdad.
The ban, which came into effect on Friday evening (September 29), “will affect 400 Kurdish companies and cause some 7,000 job losses,” according to a statement by the Kurdish travel industry.
Baghdad had given the Kurdish Regional Governmennt (KRG) until 6 p.m. to cede control of its international airports in Erbil and Sulaimaniya to avoid the ban. The KRG said it would not comply.
Regional flights have not been affected by the international ban.
Protesters at Erbil airport release balloons to protest Baghdad’s flight ban on Kurdistan Region, reported Mutlu Civiroglu on Twitter.
The independence referendum had been criticised by neighbouring countries including Turkey.
The Turkish and Russian presidents met in Ankara to discuss the vote, among other things.
Speaking during a joint news conference, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said:
“The [Iraqi Kurdish independence] referendum has no legitimacy in terms of Iraqi constitution and international laws. Unfortunately the regional government made a big mistake by holding the referendum. It’s very important that the international community takes a stance supporting Iraqi territorial integrity and political unity.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not set out his view on the vote. “Russia’s principled stance on the issue is known well enough,” he said.
“Moscow respects the national aspirations of the Kurds,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “We believe that all points at issue between Iraq’s federal authorities and the leadership of the Kurdish Autonomous Region may and should be solved through a constructive and respectful dialogue aimed at developing a mutually acceptable formula of co-existence as part of a unified Iraqi state.”