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Iraq, Turkey end bans on flights, open skies to other country's planes

File picture dated 03 August 2005 shows an Iraqi Airlines Boeing 737 type plane at the tarmac of the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul.

Story highlights

  • Iraq and Turkey agree to drop flight bans against each other
  • Dispute began over a $3 million debt that Turkey says Iraq owes
  • Turkish planes begin landing again in Baghdad on Thursday

Iraq and Turkey have agreed to allow flights between their countries, ending a mutual ban that began with a dispute about how an Iraqi government oil company owed millions of dollars to Turkey, Iraqi officials said Thursday.

Turkish planes resumed flights to Iraq on Thursday and were landing at the Baghdad airport, Iraq's Ministry of Transportation said.

Iraqi airliners will begin landing in Istanbul on Friday, officials said.

On Monday, Iraq banned all Turkish flights from landing in the country, including the semiautonomous Kurdish region, as a response to a similar ban last week in Turkey against Iraqi flights.

However, a Turkish government official denied that Ankara blocked Iraqi planes. The official did say that Turkey warned that if Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization did not pay the $3 million owed to his country, the country would ban Iraqi aircraft.

Both countries agreed to drop the bans after negotiations.

After years of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Turkey's flagship carrier Turkish Airlines was one of the first international companies to begin direct flights to Baghdad. Increasingly, Turkey has grown as a major international gateway for commerce and travel to and from its Iraqi neighbor.