News / Middle East

    Baghdad Halts Kurdish Cargo Flights After Ministers' Boycott

    FILE - Newly elected Iraqi Kurd members of parliament attend the first session of parliament in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, July 1, 2014.
    FILE - Newly elected Iraqi Kurd members of parliament attend the first session of parliament in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, July 1, 2014.
    Reuters

    Kurdish ministers said they were boycotting meetings of Iraq's caretaker Cabinet and authorities in Baghdad halted cargo flights to two Kurdish cities, in an escalating row between the Shi'ite-led central government and Kurdish leaders.

    The suspension of attendance was in protest at Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's “provocative” branding of the Kurdish provincial capital Arbil as a haven for the Islamic State group and other militants, the ministers said in a statement on Thursday.

    However, the officials would continue running their ministries and “did not pull out from the government,” a senior Kurdish official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters.

    The ministers did not mention a timeline for their boycott or terms for their return, but they called for an inclusive national government. Iraq's cabinet holds scheduled meetings every Tuesday and exceptional meetings can be called at other times.

    Hours later, the head of Iraq's civil aviation authority Nasser Bandar told Reuters cargo flights to Arbil and Iraq's second main Kurdish city, Sulaimaniya, had been suspended until further notice. He said passenger flights were unaffected.

    With an Islamist insurgency raging in the country's Sunni provinces, the United States and other countries have called for politicians in Baghdad to set up a more inclusive government following a parliamentary election in April.

    But the new legislature has failed to agree on leadership for the country, leaving Maliki in power as a caretaker while Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders trade accusations over the insurgency.

    Relations hit a low on Wednesday when Maliki accused the Kurds of allowing Arbil to be used as a center for Islamic State and others, including former members of Saddam Hussein's now-banned Baath Party.

    “We will never be silent about Arbil becoming a base for the operations of the Islamic State and Baathists and al-Qaida and the terrorists,” Maliki said.

    Pushing for statehood?

    Sunnis and Kurds demand Maliki leave office, but he shows no sign of agreeing to step aside. The Kurds are now closer than ever to abandoning Iraq altogether, with Massoud Barzani, leader of their autonomous region, calling last week for his parliament to prepare a referendum on independence.

    Maliki's relationship with Barzani has steadily deteriorated since last month, when Islamic State and allied Sunni armed groups seized swaths of northern and western Iraq.

    Many Sunni Muslims who fled the mostly Sunni northern city of Mosul during the militants' offensive have ended up in Iraqi Kurdistan, with leading Sunni political figures hated by Maliki now frequenting Arbil.

    Maliki, meanwhile, has accused the Kurds of exploiting the crisis to push for statehood. Kurdish forces exploited the turmoil to seize control of the city of Kirkuk and its huge oil reserves a month ago, achieving a long-held dream.

    Responding to what he called Maliki's “void” accusations, Barzani's spokesman said on Thursday that Maliki “has been afflicted by a true hysteria and lost his balance as he tries as hard as he can to justify his errors and failure and make others responsible for it.”

    Omaid Sabah said Arbil “is a refuge now for all those fleeing his dictatorship” and called for Maliki to apologize to the Iraqi people for destroying the country.

    “The person who destroyed it cannot save it from crises.” 

    You May Like

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora