(FILES) This file photo taken on November 23, 2015 shows the entrance of Arbil International Airport, in the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region. (AFP PHOTO)
BAGHDAD, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The authority of the international airport of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region, on Thursday informed the airlines offices that direct international flights will be suspended to and from Erbil airport starting from Friday evening, an airline office official told Xinhua.
"The authority of Erbil airport informed the airlines offices not to book tickets for international flights, as all international flights to and from Erbil airport will be suspended starting from 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday following the decision by the Iraqi cabinet and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi," the director of an airline office said on condition of anonymity.
The latest instruction of the Erbil airport said that only domestic flights will be permitted and all the already booked tickets for international flights should be through Baghdad international airport, the official said.
Passengers arrive at Erbil International Airport, Iraq September 27, 2017. (REUTERS PHOTO)
On the other hand the Iraqi Tourism Board announced on Thursday the halt of domestic tourism movement to the Kurdish region starting from early next week, after the region held the independence referendum.
"The tourism companies in Baghdad, as well as in Iraq's southern and central provinces cancelled all domestic tourism trips to the cities of the Kurdistan region after the referendum of the region," the chairman of the tourism authority Mahmoud al-Zubaidi said in a statement.
Zubaidi said that the tourism sector is the second largest economic resource for the Kurdish region after oil because it brought millions of dollars a month to the region, according to the statement.
On Thursday, Abadi said that his duty is to defend the unity of Iraq according to the constitution, while pledging to impose the federal authority into Kurdistan region.
"We won't deviate from the constitution, which has supremacy over all authorities, and our national duty to defend Iraq and its unity," Abadi said.
Also on Thursday, the Iraqi Aviation Authority informed the foreign airlines to stop international flights to Kurdistan from 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday, and only permitted domestic flights.
On Wednesday, Iraqi parliament reconfirmed its punishing package of measures adopted on Sept. 25 against the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan over its controversial independence referendum held on Monday.
The independence of Kurdistan is opposed not only by the Iraqi central government, but also by most other countries, because it would threaten the integrity of Iraq and undermine the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.
Iraq's neighboring countries, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria, fear the Iraqi Kurdish independence move would threaten their territorial integrity, as large population of Kurds live in those countries.
The United States has repeatedly warned the Kurds to postpone the referendum, saying such move could derail or confuse the war against IS.