The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning Wednesday for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cities of Irbil, Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah, citing rising tensions in the wake of the controversial Iraqi Kurdish referendum held on Monday.
In a statement, the ministry said citizens should leave the cities as soon as possible if they are not obliged to stay.
The ministry had earlier said it will take “all measures” under international law if the referendum generates threats to Turkey’s national security.
The warning came after the Turkish consulate in Irbil announced that flights from Turkey to northern Iraq would be suspended as of 06.00 p.m. local time on Friday.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the consulate said Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority had announced the suspension of flights to and from Irbil, the administrative capital of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, as well as Sulaymaniyah as of Sept. 29.
“In this case, it will not be possible for Turkish Airlines, AtlasGlobal, or Pegasus [airlines] to carry out mutual flights from our country to Irbil or Sulaymaniyah” as of Sept. 29, the statement read.
On Tuesday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) three days to hand over control of the airports under its control to avoid an air embargo.
Following the KRG’s refusal to do so, Iraq’s Transport Ministry ordered international airlines to halt all services to Irbil and Sulaimaniyah beginning Friday evening.
Earlier today, Turkey’s flag carrier Turkish Airlines said that it had no plans to suspend flights to northern Iraq.
There was no immediate response by Turkish Airlines to the consulate’s announcement.
On Wednesday, Egypt’s national air carrier also announced that as of Friday, it would suspend all flights to Irbil.
Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, too, announced plans to halt all flights — also starting Friday — both to and from northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.
Monday’s controversial referendum faced opposition from most international actors-including Turkey, the U.S., Iran, and the U.N. — many warning that the poll would further destabilize the region and distract from the ongoing fight against Daesh.