KRG ask Russia to keep fighter jets out of region’s airspace

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has asked the Russian government keep its fighter jets out of its airspace when conducting missions against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, Breitbart reported. The Russian government began an airstrike campaign in the region in September, allegedly to weaken the jihadi gangs of the Islamic State terrorist group. Flying through Kurdish airspace can be the fastest route to finding those targets, whether IS or Syrian rebels. This forces the Kurdish government to ground commercial flights, however, and have begun affecting the regional economy. So KRG Interior Minister Kareem Sinjari on Monday, reportedly requested the Russian Consul General to Erbil that the Russians find a new route to their targets to allow commercial planes into and out of Erbil to keep flying. Russian military activity has kept commercial airliners grounded in both Erbil and Sulaimaniya airports on two separate occasions this month. Kurdish officials are concerned that Russia will make a habit of shutting down their airline industry. Simakov said at the meeting, Rudaw reports, that “currently there is no other way for Moscow to avoid Kurdish airspace.”

Russia’s demands for air traffic to be shut down in Kurdistan have forced the region to cut business with Turkey. Turkish airlines canceled a number of flights on Monday unable to reach their destinations. Some flights Tuesday will also be postponed, the company announced.

The KRG enjoys close economic ties with Turkey, particularly in the oil trade, and has defending Turkey from Russian claims that its government is buying illegal crude oil from the Islamic State, identifying trucks shipping the oil out of Iraq into Turkey as belonging to Erbil, not IS.

That Russia’s demands, via allies in the government in Baghdad, to shut down Kurdish commercial flights may damage Kurdistan-Turkey economic ties occurs as relations between Russia and Turkey directly appear to reach new lows in recent history.