Lebanon and Egypt carriers to halt flights to Iraqi Kurdistan

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s and Egypt’s national carriers will halt flights to the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Erbil this week at the request of the Baghdad authorities, they said on Wednesday.
Their decision comes after Iraq’s government threatened to ban international flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan after the region held an independence referendum.
Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines and EgyptAir both said their flights to and from Erbil would be affected.
MEA Chairman Mohammed al Hout confirmed “the suspension of all flights to and from Erbil from Friday, upon the request of the Iraqi aviation authorities for the halt of all international fights.”
In a statement, EgyptAir also said its flights would halt from Friday “until further notice.”
The move comes a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi threatened to order a halt to all flights serving airports in Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the independence vote, which is expected to produce a resounding “yes.”
Abadi said he would ban “international flights to and from Kurdistan” from Friday unless the airports in Erbil and the city of Sulaimaniyah were placed under the control of the federal government.
The transport minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mawloud Bawah Murad, expressed bafflement at the move by Baghdad.
“Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports were built from the budget of the Kurdistan government,” he told a press conference in Erbil.
“We want more clarifications from the Iraqi government on its demand to hand them the two airports, because we don’t understand how to give them the two airports, when they are already subject to the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority. — Reuters