Shafaaq News – 13-12-2013 – ERBIL-Hewlêr:  – The Prime Minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, said on Friday that Kurdistan is being exposed to what he called as aggravation from Baghdad, while noting that such harassment prevented private aircrafts from landing at Erbil international airport and affected its reputation, Shafaq news reported.

“The Iraqi government in Baghdad suspended since the end of November last VIP trips from Turkey to Kurdistan Region,” The Director-General of Erbil International Airport, Talar Fayiq, said earlier.

Baghdad has barred Turkish private planes from flying to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region last month, 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 in December, infuriating Baghdad, which insists all energy sales should be via the central government.

She pointed out that Baghdad has informed them that these trips have been stopped until further notice, saying that normal flights are ongoing between Turkey and Kurdistan Region. She also confirmed that travels between Kurdistan and the other countries is also normal with the exception of Turkey.

Barzani said in a televised interview, that “Kurdistan region is being inconvenienced by Baghdad. The last of those inconveniences was preventing a private aircraft from landing at the airport in Erbil, what cause us to show the wrong image on the region.” Also in December 2012, a plane carrying Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz to an energy conference in Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan was denied permission to land by the central government in Baghdad, a Turkish energy ministry official said at that time.

The Iraqi government’s tight control of Kurdish airspace is a growing concern for Kurdistan’s airports as political relations between Baghdad and Erbil continue to sour. “Iraq’s government could close airspace without warning, meaning planes could not land,” Kurdish airport directors said in July 2012.

Tahir Abdullah, director of the Sulaimani International Airport, said in 2012 that Baghdad controls Kurdistan’s airspace and that Kurdistan Regional Government KRG does not have any authority. He warned that, if relations between Baghdad and Erbil continue to sour, “Iraqi aviation authorities might freeze the work of our airports and not allow any planes to land here.”

Airport directors said they have already started to feel pressure from Baghdad. They say it is becoming more difficult to get permission for landing private jets,t while Kurdistan must seek Baghdad’s permission for every inbound and outbound flight. Airline operators must also ask for Baghdad’s permission.

Airport directors say a change in aviation law is needed urgently. The current laws date back to 1974 and plans to amend the law were rejected because they gave no authority to Kurdistan. Iraq’s constitution only gives authority to the central government to control all airports. Kurdistan has two main airports and plans are underway to build a new airport on Duhok. Kurdistan does not get any of the income made from its airports. All of the money goes to Baghdad.