Posted by meb at April 15th, 2011

Turkish Airlines has launched direct Istanbul-Arbil flights, the latest sign of the developing relations between Turkey and the Regional Kurdish Administration in northern Iraq. Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek welcomed Iraqi Kurds at a ceremony in Arbil, saying in Kurdish, ‘We have been brothers for a thousand years. No one can destroy this!

Northern Iraq, on what was once one of the most disputed Turkish borders, is closer to Turkey than ever in both economic and political terms. Speaking in Kurdish during a visit Thursday, the Turkish finance minister reiterated the ruling government’s support fro the Iraqi Kurdish region.

Turkey’s national air carrier’s launch of direct flights to Arbil, an Iraqi Kurdish city, on Thursday, added to close political ties between the parties that were cemented by recent visits from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan and Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu to the region.

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek’s opening speech marked the ceremony in Arbil to celebrate the new line between Turkey and the city.

“I have brought you our prime minister’s greetings,” ÅžimÅŸek said in Kurdish. “Is it crucial for us for here to develop and live in peace.”

Until a few years ago, it was unthinkable for a Turkish minister to speak in Kurdish in an official capacity.

Şimşek spoke at the Arbil International Airport, a facility built by Turkish Cengiz Construction and opened by Erdoğan two weeks ago. “In recent years, we have been developing our relations with neighboring countries based on a policy of zero-problem and through strong cooperation as well as more investments. Turkish Airlines’ flights to Arbil are a physical manifestation of the existing ties between the hearts of the Turks and Iraqis. Hopefully, flights will make great contributions to trade, investment and cooperation between our peoples.”

Ending his words in Kurdish, Şimşek said, “We have been brothers for a thousand years. No one can destroy this brotherhood.”

ErdoÄŸan, accompanied by several Cabinet ministers, visited Arbil earlier in March, where he met with Masoud Barzani, the head of the Regional Kurdish Administration, and became the first Turkish prime minister to visit the city.

In November, DavutoÄŸlu visited the city in a bid to support the efforts to found a government in Iraq.

Undersecretary of the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Metin Kılcı, Turkish Airlines Chairman Hamdi Topçu and a group of Turkish businesspeople were on the very first Turkish Airlines plane to Arbil.

Under the flight schedule, Turkish Airlines, also known as THY, will fly from Istanbul to Arbil on Tuesday and Saturday and from Erbil to Istanbul on Wednesday and Sunday.
source: hurriyet