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Turkey shuts airspace to Sulaimaniyah flights, citing Kurdish militants

The move is likely retaliation against ties between Kurdish militants and the Iraqi Kurdish Patriotic Union Party. 
This picture taken on Jan. 26, 2019, shows journalists filming outside the departure lounge and control tower of Sulaimaniyah International Airport.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that Ankara sealed off its airspace to flights to and from northern Iraq’s Sulaimaniyah International Airport in an apparent retaliation against deepening ties between a major Iraqi Kurdish political party and outlawed Kurdish militants. 

The ministry cited increasing activity of outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in the area, adding that the decision taken on April 3 will remain in effect until July 3.

The ministry said PKK militants’ “infiltration” into the airport was threatening flight safety.

The move came after a helicopter carrying Kurdish militants crashed en route to Sulaimaniyah, the stronghold of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two major political blocs influential in Iraqi Kurdistan. Nine Kurdish militants died during the crash. US-allied, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces identified the victims as members of its elite forces. 

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