Qatar Airways cancels flights to northern Iraq: website

Qatar Airways cancels flights to northern Iraq: website

IRBIL, Iraq Hundreds of passengers waited to board flights out of the Kurdish region at Irbil International Airport on Thursday after Baghdad threatened to ban flights following an independence referendum held by Iraq's Kurds earlier this week.

"We have an worldwide community here, so this is not going to be only against Kurdish people", Irbil airport's director, Talar Faiq Salih, told the BBC on Thursday.

Turkey and Russian Federation have strong commercial ties with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdish officials say they can withstand an economic blockade because they are self-sufficient in power generation and fuel supply, and have fertile agricultural land.

An extended suspension of flights would have significant consequences for the Kurds, who have turned Arbil into a regional transport hub.

"[Our] historic relationship with the people of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region will not change in light of today's non-binding referendum, but we believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people", the department said in a statement.

But the vote has alarmed Ankara as it battles a separatist insurgency from its own large Kurdish minority.

The Turkish leader has previously warned that the referendum could spark an "ethnic war" in the region and claimed that Kurdish citizens would starve should Turkey decide to close its long border with northern Iraq, an idea Turkish officials are now considering.

Turkish carriers Turkish Airlines, AtlasGlobal and Pegasus were scheduled to suspend operations on Friday after Baghdad announced a ban following the referendum.

"Arbil and Sulaimaniyah airports were built from the budget of the Kurdistan government", he told a press conference in Arbil.

Though Baghdad has signaled on multiple occasions that it will avoid military confrontation and has "ruled out the use of force" while seeking dialogue, it is unclear what will actually happen once Iraqi and Kurdish forces attempt to maintain control of the same disputed city.

"We must not allow at any price to let global borders get hazy and accordingly we strongly support the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria", said Mr. Jahangiri, "the solidarity of Iran and Iraq is very important and effective in this cause".

Turkish officials later said it had stopped training Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq in response to the Kurdish independence vote. He's already begun firing on YPG positions in Syria despite their alliance with the USA against ISIS, and if the Kurds break with Baghdad, Erdogan might feel empowered to attack their positions in Iraq without fear of backlash from Abadi.

KRG leader Massud Barzani had called on the central government to join negotiations about Kurdistan's future after more than 90 percent of Kurdish voters opted for secession on Monday.

The Iraqi government has rejected any talks with the KRG and demanded that the Kurdish leadership cancel the result in order to avoid sanctions, worldwide isolation and possibly a military intervention. A similar demand had been made on Monday but there have been no signs of any deployment.

Iraq and Turkey have also held joint military drills.

Ankara has threatened a series of measures including blocking crucial oil exports from the region via Turkey.

On 26 September, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, gave the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) three days to handover KR-I worldwide airports to the Federal Border Port Authority and the Federal Civil Aviation Authority or face a ban on air travel. He is terrified that Turkey's Kurds will catch the independence bug too, and he's willing to take strong measures against Iraq's Kurds to stop it.

Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces have both fought to push IS back since the jihadists overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014.


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