Turkey may seize Iraqi planes over debt repayment failure

November 20, 2011, Sunday/ 16:54:00

Turkey may seize planes owned by the Iraqi government as soon as they land in a Turkish airport due to the State Oil Marketing Corporation's (SOMO) failure to repay its nearly $3 million debt to Turkish businesses, Turkish diplomatic sources have told Today's Zaman.

The possibility of a seizure arose after a local court recently decided that SOMO's debt be collected via confiscation of Iraqi state property. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the same diplomatic sources said planes owned by private Iraqi companies shall, however, not be seized since the court's decision only covers public, not private, assets. Therefore, private flights from Iraq to Turkey can still continue, but authorities may choose to seize any aircraft owned by the state based on that court ruling, which is, according to the Iraqi central government, a de facto flight ban for any state plane from the Middle Eastern country.

Speaking to Agence France Presse (AFP) on Saturday, Karim al-Nuri, the media adviser to Iraqi Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri, said Turkish aircraft will be banned from landing at Iraqi airports from Sunday on. "This is a response to a Turkish decision to stop Iraqi airplanes from landing in Turkish airports," Nuri was quoted as saying. Turkish airline companies were not immediately available for comment on the matter.

As part of his remarks to the AFP, the Iraqi minister's adviser defended his government's stance against Turkish companies. "The Iraqi stance is right and normal, considering what the Turkish authorities decided to do days ago," he said.

He, however, acknowledged that the bilateral row stemmed from the debt SOMO owes to Turkey. "They did not find a way to put pressure on Iraq except by stopping our airplanes from landing in their airports," he said.