The European Union Ambassador to Iraq Martin Huth says flights from this country to Minsk will stop for ten days.
“From several sources we have heard that flights are canceled over the next ten days. It seems to be very reliable information. It seems that this has gone from Iraqi Airways to all travel agencies in the country,” the diplomat told BNS on Wednesday night, adding that he has not received an official notification from the Iraqi airline yet.
Huth also said the Iraqi government set up a committee on Tuesday to look into alleged trafficking of Iraqi migrants to Lithuania via Belarus.
Iraqi Airways Thursday flights from Basra to Minsk has been cancelled, according to information on the website of the Belarusian capital's airport.
The plane had been scheduled to take off at 08:15 from Basra and land in Minsk at 13:00 Lithuanian time (Belarusian time as well).
Meanwhile, a plane of private Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad took off on Thursday morning for Minsk and was scheduled to land in the Belarusian capital at around 13:25 Lithuanian time.
The European Union has been involved in negotiations with Baghdad in an effort to concince Iraq to cut the number of flights to Minsk. Brussels and Vilnius is also asking for help returning Iraqi citizens – who have crossed the border irregularly into Lithuania – to their country of origin.
According to the websites of Minsk Airport and Iraqi Airways, the Iraqi airline was planning to launch flights to Minsk from Basra, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.
So far this year, Lithuanian border guards have detained more than 4,000 irregular migrants, mostly Iraqis.
Lithuanian officials say the Belarusian government is engaging in migrant smuggling, describing it as “hybrid aggression”.