Iraq bans Tur­key planes ahead of Kurd oil con­fer­ence

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

Bagh­dad has barred Turk­ish pri­vate planes from fly­ing to Iraq's au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion, of­fi­cials said Satur­day, ahead of an en­ergy con­fer­ence that Ankara's en­ergy min­is­ter was ex­pected to at­tend.

The move comes amid mount­ing ten­sions be­tween Iraq and Tur­key over a mooted pipe­line that could be­gin pump­ing oil ex­ports from Iraqi Kur­dis­tan as early as next month, in­fu­ri­at­ing Bagh­dad, which in­sists all en­ergy sales should be via the cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

"Since yes­ter­day (Fri­day), Bagh­dad has stopped pri­vate planes com­ing from Tur­key," Talar Mustafa, head of Ar­bil air­port in the cap­i­tal of the Kur­dish re­gion in north­ern Iraq, told AFP.

"Not nor­mal flights, just pri­vate jets. It is an or­der from the min­istry of trans­porta­tion."

Mustafa said air­port au­thor­i­ties were not in­formed of the rea­son­ing.

Two Turk­ish of­fi­cials, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, con­firmed that a Turk­ish pri­vate plane fly­ing to the Kur­dish re­gion was turned back late Fri­day.

The de­ci­sion comes af­ter a sim­i­lar move by Bagh­dad a year ago, bar­ring Turk­ish En­ergy Min­is­ter Taner Yildiz's plane from land­ing in Ar­bil, with Iraqi of­fi­cials say­ing at the time that the flight had not ob­tained the nec­es­sary per­mits.

A four-day en­ergy con­fer­ence is due to open Sun­day in the re­gional cap­i­tal, which Yildiz was again ex­pected to at­tend. Kur­dish of­fi­cials said the flight ban would not af­fect the event.

"We're used to th­ese petty, petu­lant ac­tions from Bagh­dad," a Kur­dish re­gional gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told AFP, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity. "They re­ally should grow up."

"It won't af­fect the con­fer­ence."

Of­fi­cials at Iraq's civil avi­a­tion au­thor­ity and trans­port min­istry did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple AFP re­quests for com­ment.

The lat­est move by Bagh­dad comes af­ter Kur­dish Prime Min­is­ter Nechir­van Barzani told re­porters in Ankara that oil ex­ports from the re­gion to Tur­key could start next month.

Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties are seek­ing ways of sell­ing their oil on in­ter­na­tional mar­kets out­side the con­trol of Bagh­dad, but a lin­ger­ing dis­pute with the cen­tral gov­ern­ment has paral­ysed de­vel­op­ment of new oil and gas projects in the re­gion.

The Turk­ish for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment on Satur­day that dur­ing Barzani's visit, Ankara and Ar­bil "reached agree­ment on some com­mer­cial con­tracts in the area of en­ergy which are also com­pat­i­ble with the Iraqi con­sti­tu­tion."

"But the process has not yet been fi­nalised. It is our de­sire and pref­er­ence that the is­sue be tack­led through a three-party for­mat and fi­nalised in a way which will serve our peo­ples' com­mon in­ter­ests and wel­fare."

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