Kurdish regional authorities in northern Iraq are under increasing pressure after Monday's independence referendum, as the Iraqi government calls for a suspension of international flights to airports in the Kurdish region. Lebanon's Middle East Airlines (MEA) will suspend flights to and from Erbil airport in northern Iraq from Friday, citing an Iraqi government decision to block international flights at the airport, MEA Chairman Mohammad al-Hout said by phone. The last flight is on the 29th, until they solve the issue," he told Reuters news agency on Wednesday. MEA's decision comes just hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatened to impose an international air embargo on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) if it does not hand over control of its airports. The KRG's transportation ministry rejected the Iraqi government's ultimatum and insisted that the region's airports will remain under the control of Kurdish authorities.
IRBIL – Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region will hold a referendum on statehood in September, its presidency said Wednesday, despite opposition to independence from Baghdad. Iraqi Kurds largely support the idea of an independent state, but a yes vote in September would only be the start of a contentious project that would face major external and internal challenges. "The date for the independence referendum shall be Monday, September 25, 2017," the presidency said in a statement. "It will be on that day when the people of the Kurdistan region, as well as those living in the disputed areas, will cast their votes on whether they accept independence," the statement said. The decision was made at a meeting attended by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and representatives of the region's political parties, it said.
Turkey, the main link to the outside world for the autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, threatened economic and diplomatic retaliation if Kurds carried out a referendum that the Turkish government called a "terrible mistake." Turkey's Parliament voted late Saturday to renew for one year a mandate to authorize military intervention in Iraq or Syria if Turkey determines that developments there threaten national security. Turkey, a NATO member, is conducting tank exercises on its border with Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey's prime minister, Binali Yildirim, asked by reporters in Ankara, the capital, whether a cross-border incursion was possible, replied that security operations were "a question of timing" based on "developing conditions." Iraq's Kurds refused to back down.