Turkey closes air space to N Iraq flights
Turkey has announced a ban on flights between its own airports and those of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The move is part of a wider effort to allow the Iraqi government to take control of a key border gate following the recent KRG independence bid.
“The cabinet has decided to close Turkish airspace to flights to and from northern Iraq under the regional government, upon an advisory decision of the National Security Council. From now on, no plane will be able to fly to airports in northern Iraq and no plane taking off from airports in northern Iraq will be able to use Turkish airspace,” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdağ told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting on Oct 16.
Bozdağ also stated that the government has decided to launch work with the central Iraqi government for the handover of the İbrahim Khalil (Habur) border gate from the KRG to Baghdad.
These two measures were discussed at the biannual National Security Council (MGK) meeting held under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and top civilian and military officials on Oct. 16 before the cabinet meeting.
“[During the meeting] the steps taken right after the KRG’s illegitimate and unconstitutional referendum were evaluated and new measures that can be taken were discussed. Closing Turkish air space to the KRG and handing over control of the Ibrahim Khalil Border Gate to the central Iraqi government were advised to the government,” read a written statement issued by the MGK after the meeting.
Turkey, along with Iraq and Iran, has strongly rejected the KRG’s September independence referendum and urged Arbil to cancel the process before it imposes strong sanctions.
The MGK said it evaluated the measures taken by the central Iraqi government, particularly in Kirkuk, emphasizing the importance that Turkey attaches to the territorial integrity and political unity of Iraq.
It voiced Turkey’s expectation that the latest military offensive launched by the Iraqi government to retake Kirkuk will “rebuild the demographic structure of the city.” It said Kirkuk, which is home to a large population of Iraqi Turkmens, has been subject to demographic changes by the KRG administration amid attempts to take control of the oil rich province.
Turkey and Iraq had launched a military drill before the Sept. 25 referendum along the Turkish-Iraqi border, which was interpreted as preparation to take control of the single border gate from the hands of the KRG.
‘Idlib operation continuing successfully’
The MGK also discussed the ongoing military operation into Idlib, recently kicked off as part of a deal between Turkey, Iran and Russia provided in the Astana Agreement. It stated that the council evaluated that the Turkish troops in the de-escalation zone in Idlib “are continuing their operation successfully.”
Turkish troops recently began establishing observation zones inside Syria along with forces of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).