Flight ban enters effect in Iraq’s Erbil, Sulaymaniyah
A flight ban came into effect on Friday evening at the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports in northern Iraq's Kurdish region.
Earlier Friday, Talar Faiq, director of Erbil's international airport, had announced that all international flights into the Kurdish region would be suspended as of 6 p.m. local time.
Exceptions would be made for military, diplomatic and UN-affiliated flights, he added.
U.S.-led coalition forces frequently use the Erbil airport for military purposes, while the UN uses both the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports to dispatch humanitarian aid to war-torn areas of Iraq.
Friday's flight ban comes as a response by the Iraqi government to Monday's illegitimate referendum on Kurdish regional independence.
"International flights will be suspended based on the demands of Iraq's Civil Aviation Authority," Faiq told reporters at a press conference held in Erbil.
He added, however, that the airport's administration had yet to be officially notified of the ban by the Iraqi authorities.
"This flight ban won't only harm the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), but all of Iraq," Faiq asserted, calling on Baghdad to reverse the decision.
Monday's illegitimate referendum in northern Iraq had faced sharp opposition from most regional and international actors, many of whom had warned that the poll would further destabilize the Middle East.
According to figures released by the KRG (of which Erbil serves as administrative capital), almost 93 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of independence from Baghdad.