According to Mikrofon news agency (MHA) Turkey officially announced on Friday that it is indefinitely suspending all flights to northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in the wake of the illegitimate referendum earlier this week in the region.
Not only the flag-carrier Turkish Airlines but all other private Turkish air carriers are covered by the decision, which takes effect at 6.00 p.m. local time (1500GMT), said Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
“We will send private planes for any Turkish citizens that may be affected by the decision. We expect northern Iraq to understand that Turkey does not fool around in such matters. Our measures are not limited to this. We will gradually share our upcoming decisions with the public,” added Yildirim, speaking at a museum opening in the northwestern Canakkale province.
The move, made in line with decisions by the Iraqi central government’s aviation authority, comes amid mounting tension over the illegitimate referendum on regional independence.
Monday’s illegitimate poll saw Iraqis in KRG-controlled areas — and in a handful of territories disputed between Erbil and Baghdad, including ethnically mixed Kirkuk and Mosul — vote on whether or not to declare independence from Iraq’s central government.
Official preliminary results said 93 percent of voters backed Kurdish independence, although the vote was widely criticized by the international community.
Along with Baghdad, Turkey, the U.S., Iran, and the UN all spoke out against the illegitimate poll, warning it would distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh and further destabilize the region.