Ankara, Mar 23 (AP) Turkey’s prime minister said today his country was partially reopening its airspace to flights to Iraq’s Kurdish region, after the central government restored authority at airports in the area.

Binali Yildirim said the airspace would be open to commercial and civilian flights to and from the city of Irbil but flights to the city of Suleymaniyah would not be permitted.

He cited security concerns stemming from alleged Kurdish rebel activity targeting Turkey from the Suleymaniyah region.

“There will be no flight to Suleymaniyah whatsoever,” Yildirim told reporters in Ankara.

Turkey has shut down its airspace to flights to the Kurdish region following a controversial referendum vote in northern Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdish region six months ago that overwhelmingly backed independence from Baghdad.

The referendum was vehemently rejected by Baghdad, Turkey and Iraq’s other neighbors, ratcheting up tensions in the region.

The Turkish prime minister also said that his country would press ahead with military strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq as long as threats to Turkey continue.

Earlier, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry condemned Turkey’s attacks on what Ankara suspected were Kurdish rebel camps in northern Iraq, along the countries’ shared border. The state-run Anadolu Agency said nine militants were “neutralized” in an operation yesterday.

The Iraqi ministry described the attacks as “violations” that led to the death of a number of civilians in a statement released late yesterday. (AP) ZH ZH

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.