New date in December

Turkish Airlines once again extends suspension of Sulaymaniyah flights

SULAYMANIYAH — For the third time since last year, Turkish Airlines has extended its suspension of flights to Sulaymaniyah International Airport for six months, until December 7, 2024. The airport’s director reported significant losses due to the suspension.

Hendren Hewa Mufti, Director of Sulaymaniyah International Airport, spoke to 964media, stating, “We were informed yesterday of the extension of the ban on flights from Turkey to Sulaymaniyah International Airport until Dec. 7, 2024.”

Mufti elaborated, “On April 3, 2023, Turkish Airlines notified Sulaymaniyah International Airport of the suspension of all its flights to the airport. Subsequently, the Turkish government decided to close its airspace to any aircraft traveling from Turkey to Sulaymaniyah.”

“Initially, the suspension was for one month, but it was extended twice, first until June 10, 2023, and then until July 22, 2024. Now, for the third time, the ban has been extended to the end of 2024 due to the political and security situation,” Mufti explained.

He also commented on the financial impact: “We have recorded all the damages and losses the airport has incurred due to the suspension of flights, and we will present them at the end of the year or when flights resume.”

On Sep. 29, 2017, Turkey closed its airspace to both Erbil and Sulaymaniyah international airports, four days following the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum. However, Turkey lifted the ban on Erbil Airport in July 2018. The ban on Sulaymaniyah Airport was extended and lasted another 16 months before being lifted on January 26, 2019. At that time, the PUK imposed a crackdown in Sulaymaniyah on PKK activities, including raids on Tavgari Azadi, a political movement reportedly linked to the PKK.

In April 2023, Sulaymaniyah International Airport was struck while the Syrian Democratic Forces commander and U.S. military personnel were present. Turkey, which accuses the Syrian Democratic Forces of ties with the PKK, a group Ankara labels as terrorist, denied involvement in the airstrike.

In September, a drone attack targeted the Arbat airport near Sulaymaniyah, killing at least three members of PUK-linked security forces. The facility was used by anti-terrorism units.

Officials from Sulaymaniyah International Airport previously announced that due to Turkey’s flight suspensions, the airport’s traffic decreased by 36%.

During an Erbil meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Qubad Talabani requested that Erdogan reconsider the ban on flights to Sulaymaniyah. Talabani highlighted the economic impact and regional dynamics of the suspension. The meeting was part of broader discussions during Erdogan’s visit to Iraq, which focused on enhancing bilateral relations, including economic, security, and regional stability aspects.