Iraqi ban on flights to Kurdish cities begins Friday

  |   World News

An Iraqi government order that international airlines halt all flights in and out of the cities of Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in Kurdish territory is set to kick in on Friday. The decision to shut down the flights comes amid tensions over an overwhelming "yes" vote in an independence referendum held this week in Iraq's Kurdish region and disputed territories.

Iraq's Transport Ministry ordered international airlines to halt service to Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital, and Sulaimaniyah, its second city. Regional airlines have said they will honour the flight ban. All international flights to and from Iraq's Kurdistan region were set to end from 6pm (1500GMT).

The non-binding referendum - in which the Kurds voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from Iraq - was billed by Kurdish leaders as an exercise in self-determination. The idea of an independent state has been central to Kurdish politics for decades.

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