Iraq extends flight suspension to Turkey until October

Tension between Ankara and Baghdad heightened after Turkey launched a cross-border operation in northern Iraq

FILE PHOTO: A view of  Baghdad international Airport, after Iraq has suspended flights at its domestic airports as the coronavirus spreads, in Baghdad, Iraq March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo
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Iraq said that it extended its flight suspension to Turkey until October 1, without giving any explanation.

Authorities reopened Baghdad and southern airports last month for international travel after months of closure caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Iraqi citizens who are stranded in Turkey will need to go through diplomatic measures to return home,” a statement by the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICCA) said on Monday.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused havoc in Iraq and has shown no signs of abating despite orders to stay at home and other protective measures imposed since mid-March.

Iraq has recorded nearly 220,000 infected cases and more than 6,740 deaths since the outbreak of the virus.

Daily tallies have increased rapidly in the past few weeks, with cases topping nearly 4,000 every day.

Tensions between Baghdad and Ankara heightened in June after Turkey started a cross-border operations against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Ankara launched the ground offensive, dubbed Operation Claw Tiger, that helped Turkish troops advance deeper into the neighbouring country.

Iraq summoned the Turkish ambassador several times and said the move was in response to Ankara's “violations and breaches" that included a drone attack in Erbil, Kurdistan, which killed two officers and a soldier in August.

Iraq’s foreign ministry then said Baghdad cancelled a visit by Turkey’s defence minister to the country and summoned the ambassador again to inform him of “Iraq’s confirmed rejection of his country’s attacks and violations”.

Turkey has regularly attacked the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), both in its mainly Kurdish south-east and in northern Iraq, where the group is based.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Turkey's south-east.