Say airport is for civilian use

Iraqi MPs urge lifting Turkish embargo on Sulaymaniyah Airport

SULAYMANIYAH – Members of Iraqi Parliament’s Transport and Communications Committee visited Sulaymaniyah International Airport on Tuesday, saying the airport was a civilian facility with no military violations. The visit came as an embargo imposed on the airport by Turkey nears its end.

Since April 2023, Turkey has banned all flights to and from Sulaymaniyah, causing the airport to sustain around $10 million in losses, according to the airport’s director, Handren Hiwa. The current ban will expire on July 12, but it is unclear if Turkish authorities will lift or extend it.

Turkish media have quoted Turkish officials alleging that the airport was being used by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with Turkish officials threatening to target the airport.

Karwan Yarways, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament, rejected these accusations, stating there was “no basis” for them. He emphasized that the Iraqi parliamentary delegation affirmed the airport’s openness to all “domestic and international inspections” to uncover the truth.

“Today’s visit by the parliamentary committee is a step toward lifting the embargo imposed on Sulaymaniyah airport by Turkey,” Yarways told 964media. “It’s also an attempt to prevent any undesirable incidents from happening.”

He added that threatening a civilian aircraft was a crime and a violation of international laws and that Turkey was aware its allegations were baseless.

Turkey is conducting an extensive military operation in the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province, with several villages evacuated due to increased Turkish troop presence and clashes with the PKK. The PKK, an armed Kurdish group, has been fighting the Turkish state for Kurdish rights since the early 1980s.

The intensity of the Turkish incursion has raised concerns about Turkey’s objectives and whether it plans to occupy large parts of the Kurdistan Region permanently. Turkish media have reported that the Turkish military aims to deploy troops up to 40km inside the Kurdistan Region to create a buffer zone to prevent PKK infiltration into Turkey.

Iraqi and Kurdish officials have been largely silent about the intensified Turkish military campaign in northern Iraq. Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Masoud Barzani is expected to address the issue with other Iraqi leaders during his visit to Baghdad tomorrow.