Ban lifted, Turkey-Sulaimani flights resume

Flights between Sulaimani in the Kurdistan Region and Turkey resumed after 15 months of a halt, London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Sunday. 

On Saturday, a Turkish Airlines plane landed in Sulaimani at 3:15 a.m. local time with 28 passengers on board, according to the airline's website.

It is the first commercial air travel between Sulaimani and Turkey since the latter imposed a flight ban after the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum on Sept. 30, 2017, was opposed by Ankara and Baghdad.

The director of the Sulaimani airport Tahir Abdullah said the last-ditch effort by Iraqi President Barham Salih resolved the issue. 

"The importance of the airport is that it is not only a card in the hands of the central government but also in the countries surrounding the Kurdistan Region. The people have to see the importance of airports and respect its internal instructions," Kurdish news site Rudaw quoted Abdullah as saying. 

"We hope this doesn't happen again, and for no airport in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq face this issue," Abdullah said, adding Germany will also start flights after Feb. 10. 

Turkey opened its airspace to flights from Erbil International Airport in March 2018 but refused to open it with Sulaimani alleging the presence of the members of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which Turkey designates as a terrorist organisation, in the province.