09/30/2017, 11.07
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Flights suspended in Kurdistan. Possible UN mediation

by Pierre Balanian

To punish Kurdistan for daring to hold a referendum on independence, all flights to and from Erbil and Suleymaniyeh were canceled yesterday. Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt adhere to the embargo. To go abroad, there are only overcrowded local flights to Baghdad. Oil trade to Turkey does not stop. Growing Kurdish rage against Iraqi Arabs.

Erbil (AsiaNews) - The suspension of all civilian flights to and from to the Kurdish airports in Suleymaniyeh and Erbil went into effect yesterday at 18.00. Security personnel at the Erbil airport are closed lipped in professionalism and silence, but their faces cannot hide their disappointment.

Nothing comparable to the days before the referendum, where everyone was smiling, proud, and happy to welcome incoming foreign travelers. There are no giant monitors with the words "Yes to the Referendum". Those unable to hide their concern are Asian foreign workers at the airport: with the closure they risk losing their job.

The suspension of flights is being supported by Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. All the passengers to be evacuated, ready for departure, are foreigners, Arabs and Westerners, but there is a remarkable number of Iraqi passengers taking domestic flights to Baghdad, full of insecurity, in an attempt abroad.

The security measures are very high, while the main authors of this aerial encirclement attempt to reassure those involved. Yesterday, Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan said the air closure was not directed against the civilians and the Kurdish people; the same said Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, claimed that it is the constitutional duty control of Iraqi forces to take control throughout the territory, including the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

The Kurdistan government considers it illegal to suspend flights for political reasons in violation of the Chicago accords and does not want to hand over airports to the three groups of Iraqi customs officers and officials whom Baghdad wanted to send yesterday.

The clamp down on ground movement, however, has already come into force, although the Khabur border crossing is still held open by Turkey with people flocking to it last night. There are long lines of Turkish trucks carrying crude oil from Baedra's oil well to Turkey, contradicting Erdogan's rhetorical statements on the Kurdish oil embargo. For two days, Iran has forbidden Iranian companies to transport oil from and to Kurdistan.

With the encirclement becoming increasingly acute, AsiaNews sources have confided in the possibility of UN mediation, which should be announced in the coming days. While seeking solutions behind the scenes, Kurdish resentments and anger towards Iraqi Arabs is growing. There are fears of retaliatory actions or provocations that may start armed clashes, capable of igniting a fire that could spread well beyond local boundaries.

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