Baghdad extends flight ban on Iraqi Kurdistan

The ban, scheduled to be lifted on February 28, has been extended by three months

Iranian Kurdish Peshmerga, members of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-Iran), take part in routine military exercise in Koya, 100 kms east of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on October 22, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED
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Iraq on Monday extended a ban on international flights to and from the autonomous Kurdish region.

Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil escalated after the latter held an independence referendum in September that overwhelmingly backed secession from the rest of Iraq.

The ban, scheduled to be lifted on February 28, has been extended by three months, a senior official at Erbil airport said.

"We have been informed by the civil aviation authority in Baghdad that the ban on international flights to and from Erbil and Sulaimaniyah airports has been extended until the end of May," he said.

"Only internal flights are authorised."

Read more: Baghdad and KRG reach initial agreement on lifting flight ban

Baghdad continuously stressed that airports on the autonomous region would reopen once the central government was given “complete control” over them and that “the control of border crossings should be exclusively in the power of federal authority".

In response to the referendum, Iraq imposed sanctions on the Kurdish region as well as dislodged Kurdish fighters from several disputed areas, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Since the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussien, the two sides have bickered over land and oil sharing.