Turkey's national flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) resumed its flights to the Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah after the lifting of a ban that was imposed in September 2017.
Ali Khalil Ibrahim, an Iraqi civil aviation authority chief, said in a statement on Saturday that Turkish Airlines operated its first flight to Sulaymaniyah International Airport from Istanbul. "Implementing the Turkish government's decision to lift the air blockade on international flights from Sulaymaniyah, the first Turkish Airlines flight landed early this morning and returned to Turkey," said Sulaymaniyah Airport Chief Taher Abdallah.
He said the blockade cost the airport more than $5 million in 2018.
On Sept. 29, 2017, Iraq's central government imposed a ban on all international flights to and from the Kurdish region.
The ban against Irbil and Sulaymaniyah airports had come in response to the illegitimate Sept. 25, 2017, referendum on Kurdish regional independence.
On Wednesday, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said that the ban on flights to Sulaymaniyah would be lifted on Friday.
He said Turkey issued a NOTAM [Notice to Airmen] on Oct. 17, 2017, to stop all flights from Turkish airspace to the region.
Turhan recalled that Iraqi officials removed the ban on March 15, 2018, on international flights as control over the airports in Irbil and Sulaymaniyah shifted to the Iraqi central government. Thus, Turkey resumed flights to Irbil from Turkey, but the ban on Sulaymaniyah still continued, Turhan added.
Iraqi Airways would resume flights between Sulaymaniyah and Istanbul in the coming days, civil air authorities said.