Iraq to halt worldwide flights to Kurdistan Region

Deadline approaches for Iraq's Kurds to hand over control airports

Officials in Baghdad said the flights would resume if the central government received control of Kurdistan's airports.

This is meant to be a response to the referendum "illegitimate" on the independence of iraqi Kurdistan.Iran will perform in the next few days maneuvers with Iraq in their border.

"We will not allow even one single person from Iraq, from the Iraqi civil aviation, or from the office of the Iraqi Council of Ministers to come to Erbil and Sulaimaniya worldwide airports without our decision", Kurdistan Transport Minister Mawlood Bawa Murad said on Saturday.

On Friday evening, all global flights to and from Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports were suspended by the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA). But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the USA does not recognize the legitimacy of the referendum, and urged the Iraqis and Kurds to focus squarely on defeating ISIS.

Pressure has been building on officials in Erbil, Kurdistan's regional capital, over the referendum, with regional carriers, including Turkish Airlines, Egypt Air and Lebanon's Middle East Airlines submitting to Baghdad's request to suspend their flights serving Iraqi Kurdistan.

"The joint maneuver, [dubbed] Eqtedar (Strength), will be held by Iran's Armed Forces and units of the Iraqi army along the two countries' joint borders", Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri said on Saturday.

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The reports said that some villagers of the area had noticed the presence of four suspects when they were working in the fields. Meanwhile, army has not officially released any statement over the incident yet.

Turkey fiercely opposed the referendum and has threatened sanctions against the region, reflecting its worries about its own sizeable Kurdish minority.

"An independent state is not being founded in northern Iraq, but on the contrary a continuously bleeding wound is being opened", he said.

United States officials on Friday declared that the independence referendum was illegitimate. He urged both sides to reject the use of force and engage in dialogue, and to remain focused on the fight against the Islamic State, which he said was "not over".

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's tough reaction to the Kurdish ballot got a boost from the country's highest Shiite religious authority, the influential Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

"The president... recalled the importance of preserving unity and Iraq's (territorial) integrity while recognising the rights of the Kurdish people", the statement said.

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