Several Kurdistan Regional Government ministers joined Turkey’s Minister of Finance Mehmet Şimşek and other officials at a ceremony to celebrate Turkish Airlines’ first flight into Erbil International Airport today.
Turkish Airlines’ first flight from Istanbul to the Kurdistan Region’s capital of Erbil arrived at 11.40 this morning, carrying more than 40 businessmen who were the first to benefit from this historic step in the region’s strengthening ties with the Republic of Turkey. Turkey’s Finance Minister was accompanied by the CEO of Turkish Airlines Hamdi Topçu, the Deputy Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Metin Kilci, and their respective delegations.
The Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi said, “The arrival of this flight and the coming of Minister Şimşek and his delegation indicates the strong relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the Republic of Turkey.”
The carrier’s CEO, Hamdi Topçu, said, “This is the 135th destination for Turkish Airlines.” He announced that they will provide two weekly flights between Erbil and Istanbul until mid-May, when the service will increase to five flights per week. He said that the airline would move to daily flights in the near future.
The KRG Minister for Transport and Communications Anwar Jabali Sabo said that these flights greatly facilitate investment in the Region. On behalf of the KRG, he thanked Turkish Airlines for its initiative and extended the KRG’s support to make their work successful.
Minister Şimşek addressed the gathering in Kurdish at the beginning and end of his speech. He extended greetings from the Turkish government and said that, while Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit last month was to strengthen the relationship between both sides, his visit was to take the relationship on into the future.
Minister Şimşek also paid official visits to President Masoud Barzani and senior KRG officials while he was in the region, including Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Kamal Kirkuki, Prime Minister Barham Salih and others.
Minister Şimşek and his delegation were joined at the ceremony by the Consul General in Erbil Mehmet Aydin Selcen, other guests and several KRG ministers: Minister for Finance and the Economy Bayiz Saeed Mohammad Talabani, Minister for Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami, Minister for Education Safeen Mohsin Dizayee, Minister for Trade and Industry Sinan Abdulkhalq Ahmed Chalabi, Minister for Housing and Reconstruction Kamaran Ahmed Abdullah, and the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir.
The Turkish delegation visited the Turkish Consulate General and Ishk University and officially opened the Turkish Airlines office.
Last year, Turkey did more than 7.5 billion US dollars worth of business in Iraq, and Prime Minister Erdoğan said that they want to increase this to more than $25 billion in the near future. These new flights, the new Turkish Consulate, and the opening of branches of three Turkish banks are significant steps to facilitate the growing economic relationship between the two countries.
Turkish Airlines is the first national airline to provide a service to the Kurdistan Region from Turkey. It is a Star Alliance member that can offer services to more than 2,200 destinations worldwide.
Turkish Cargo, a brand of Turkish Airlines, also launched a cargo service to Erbil that will operate through the new passenger flights.
The 27,000-square-metre Erbil International Airport was designed by a British company constructed by a Turkish company. It is capable of operating up to 150 flights per day and boasts the fifth longest commercial runway in the world.