Turkey suspends Sulaymaniyah airport flights until July
Turkey has suspended all flights to and from Sulaimaniyah International Airport in Iraq's Kurdistan Region until July 3, the Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday.
The move came after a helicopter linked to the YPG (Peoples’ Protective Units) crashed in the region which was later found to belong to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a political party with close ties to the YPG (Peoples’ Protective Units) and PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) both of which Turkey classifies as terrorist organizations.
The closure of the airspace route to Sulaimaniyah International Airport was reportedly taken as a precautionary measure against the threat posed by the PKK's increased activities in the area, including its penetration into the airport, which could potentially pose a threat to flight safety.
“The decision was taken within the framework of the intensification of the PKK terrorist organization's activities in Sulaymaniyah, the terrorist organization's penetration into the airport and thus threatening flight security,” a statement by the foreign ministry said.
In March, eight senior members of the YPG were killed in the helicopter crash, which was reported to have been used for counterterrorism operations by the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq.
Sulaimaniyah International Airport's General Manager Hendırin Hiwa Mufti recently announced that Turkish Airlines had suspended its flights to Sulaymaniyah until April 11 without providing any explanation. Mufti stated that the airport authorities have reported the situation to the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority, but there has been no response from Turkish Airlines regarding the suspension.
This decision is reminiscent of Turkey's previous ban on flights to Sulaimaniyah after three senior members of the Turkish intelligence agency MIT were kidnapped in the region in 2017. The ban was only lifted in January 2019, after causing significant economic damage to the PUK.