BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Turkish Airlines, one of the main international carriers flying to Minsk, has agreed to suspend one-way ticket sales for Middle Eastern migrants seeking to reach Europe via Belarus, the European Union’s executive said on Friday.
Iraqi Airlines has also said it will not fly to Minsk, the Commission said, after top EU officials began talks with Iraq, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Turkey to try to stop migrants being encouraged by Belarus to come to the EU.
“These contacts are already showing fruit,” a Commission spokesperson said. “Iraqi Airlines has confirmed that it will not resume flights to Minsk, and Turkish Airlines will also suspend sales of one way tickets to Minsk from Turkey.”
According to the official Twitter account of the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority, a decision was taken to resolve “the problem of illegal border crossings between the European Union and Belarus.”
It said the decision to deny tickets and boarding was “until further notice.”
The EU has been in talks with international carriers such as Turkish Airlines to urge them to suspend one-way tickets to Minsk, from where the bloc says migrants are transported to the Polish border as means to pressure the EU.
Belarus denies any wrongdoing.
Brussels and Minsk have been at loggerheads since the EU imposed sanctions in response to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on protesters.
A Commission official said on Friday there would be more sanctions against Minsk next week.
(Reporting by Marine Strauss and Robin EmmottEditing by Philip Blenkinsop and Mark Potter)