First Turkish plane landed at Erbil, the administrative capital of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, on Tuesday after Turkey lifted its six-month ban on flights to the city.
The aircraft of Turkey’s national flag carrier Turkish Airlines arrived at Erbil International Airport (EIA) at 02.30 a.m. local time (2330 GMT) with over 150 passengers on board.
Sayef Gaffur, an Iraqi passenger who lives in Hungary, told Anadolu Agency that previously, he had to enter northern Iraq through Habur border gate in southeastern Turkey to visit his family in Erbil during the flight ban.
“It was a difficult journey and taking so long,” Gaffur said and added that the lifting of the ban would provide great convenience to the local people.
Last Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had announced that his country would resume flights to Erbil.
Also on Friday, Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said on Twitter that the country’s flag carrier would start regular flights to the Iraqi city on March 26.
Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the international flight ban on the region would be lifted before the Nevruz spring festival on March 21.
An international flight ban was imposed last Sept. 29 in response to an illegitimate poll on regional independence carried out by the Erbil-based Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
Before the poll, most regional actors — including Turkey — had voiced opposition to the referendum, with many warning that it would further destabilize the already volatile region.