ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has closed its airspace to flights to and from an airport in Kurdish-administered northern Iraq, a prime Turkish official introduced Wednesday, citing an alleged enhance in Kurdish militant exercise threatening flight security.
The airspace was closed Monday to flights taking off from and touchdown at Suleimaniyah Worldwide Airport, in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish area, Overseas Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgic stated.
The closure was a response to an alleged enhance within the actions of the banned Kurdistan Employees’ Occasion, or PKK, within the metropolis of Suleimaniyah, together with its “infiltration” of the airport, Bilgic stated in a written assertion.
Bilgic stated the Turkish airspace would stay closed till July 3, when Turkish authorities would evaluate the safety scenario.
The choice comes weeks after two helicopters crashed in northern Iraq, killing Kurdish militants who have been on board. The incident fueled claims that the PKK was in possession of helicopters, infuriating Turkish authorities.
The principle U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led drive in northeastern Syria later stated it misplaced 9 fighters, together with a commander, within the crash, which occurred throughout unhealthy climate on a flight to Suleimaniyah. The 9 included elite fighters who have been in Iraq as a part of an “trade of experience” within the struggle in opposition to the Islamic State group, in accordance with a gaggle generally known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF.
Suleimaniyah Worldwide Airport director Handren al Mufti stated the airport acquired an e-mail from Turkish Airways on April 3 saying its flights that day and the subsequent have been canceled. A subsequent e-mail prolonged the flight suspension till April 11, Mufti stated.
He stated airport officers acquired no response after they requested why the motion was taken.
“I can guarantee everybody that we’ve got no safety points in any respect, and never a single incident of safety breach occurred contained in the airport, however apparently there are different functions behind their resolution,” Mufti stated.
Turkish Airways flew twice day by day from Istanbul to Suleimaniyah.
The PKK has waged an insurgency in opposition to Turkey for the reason that Eighties and is taken into account a terrorist group by Ankara, the USA and the European Union. Its members have established protected havens in northern Iraq and ceaselessly come underneath assault by Turkey within the area.
Turkey additionally considers a Syrian Kurdish militant group, which types the spine of the SDF, as a terrorist group. The US nonetheless, distinguishes between the PKK and SDF and doesn’t take into account the SDF a terrorist group.
The helicopter crash additionally fed into an area rivalry between the 2 most important Kurdish events in Iraq.
Officers from the Kurdish Democratic Occasion, which has maintained largely good relations with Turkey, alleged after the crash that the helicopters had been initially bought by the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan occasion, which has its stronghold in Suleimaniyah, and that they’d been flying with out permission from the regional authorities.
Related Press author Salar Salim contributed from Baghdad.