World Bulletin / News Desk
All foreign flights to and from the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil will be suspended from Friday, officials said, as Baghdad increases pressure on the Kurds over this week's independence referendum.
An extended suspension of flights would have significant consequences for the Kurds, who have turned Arbil into a regional transport hub that is home to a large international community.
The non-binding referendum in the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan and some disputed areas was held in defiance of Baghdad, which declared it illegal, and despite international objections.
Turkey, also home to a large Kurdish minority, is especially concerned and has threatened a series of measures to isolate the Iraqi Kurds.
Arbil airport director Talar Faiq Salih told AFP that all international flights to and from the city would stop from 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday following a decision by the Iraqi cabinet.
Regional carriers, including Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir and Lebanon's Middle East Airlines, had already announced that they would be suspending their flights serving Iraqi Kurdistan at Baghdad's request.
A civil aviation official in Baghdad told AFP the measure applied to the airports in Arbil and the region's second-largest city Sulaimaniyah. Baghdad has demanded the airports be handed over to central authorities.
A decision on whether to also suspend domestic flights would be made after Friday, the official said.
Salih said she deeply regretted the decision, which she said would hamper the campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, as well as the delivery of aid to those displaced by it.Last Mod: 28 Eylül 2017, 17:54