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Cablegate: Regional Airports On Schedule to Achieve Icao

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003994

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON IZ
SUBJECT: REGIONAL AIRPORTS ON SCHEDULE TO ACHIEVE ICAO
COMPLIANCE

1. (U) Summary: Embassy, MNF-I, and GOI representatives
visited airports in Mosul, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah from
September 16 thru 18 to assess the progress in achieving
compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO) standards and recommended practices (SARPS). While at
different stages of completion, all three airports are on
schedule in terms of construction and renovation work. We
suspect that one reason for the accelerated development pace
of the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports is that they are
located in predominantly conflict-free Kurdish areas. End
summary.

-----------------
Background
-----------------

2 (U) Mosul, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah airports are undergoing
construction and modifications in order to satisfy ICAO
standards and recommended practices (SARPS). Mosul airport
has approximately $15 million of IRRF funds in construction
projects, and MNF-I is transitioning control of the airport
to Iraqi authorities. The Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports
are commercial, funded with regional money, and under Kurdish
control.

----------
Mosul
----------

3. (U) The target date for opening the Mosul airport is
January 2006. The civil passenger terminal was ready for
operation one year ago; however, it did not open at the time
because Iraqi security forces and procedures were not ready.
During the course of the following year, the condition of the
terminal deteriorated due to insufficient maintenance,
vandalism, and poor quality of construction. According to
the Army Corps of Engineers (COE), it will cost approximately
$400,000 to bring the terminal back up to acceptable
operating condition, and this work could take one to two
months to accomplish.

4. (U) There is a new $3 million, nine-story control tower
being constructed and slated for completion in December of
this year. On-the-job training for Iraqi air-traffic
controllers will start in January 2006. According to COE,
the quality of construction so far is good, and work is
progressing according to schedule. The major unknown for
tower construction at this point is who will handle the
hook-up of the electrical power grid; the Ministry of
Electricity (MoE) is responsible for coordinating this work,
and MNF-I agreed to follow-up with the ministry.

5. (U) The airport has a 9,000 ft runway, which gives it the
capability to handle most passenger airplanes currently in
production. (Iraqi Airways aircraft are from the Boeing
family -- models 727, 737, and 767 -- and have passenger
capacities ranging from 150 to 250.) One shortcoming of the
airport is that it does not have a parallel taxiway;
airplanes would have to taxi back on the runway, holding up
other aircraft from landing.

6. (U) Mosul airport will only serve as a domestic airport.
This is due to constraints imposed by surrounding residential
areas. International aircraft require clearance areas around
the airport that cannot be met by Mosul's layout. There are
plans to build a new regional international airport 30 km
southwest of the existing airport that could service
international flights.

7. (SBU) The group also met with an official of US Civil
Military Operations, which is responsible for transitioning
the airport from military to civilian control. The official
stated that little has been done in private-sector
transportation development, mainly due to the current
run-down condition of the airport.

-----------
Erbil
-----------

8. (U) Mr. Zaid M. Zwain, General Director of Erbil
International Airport (EIA), told us that EIA is currently
handling 30-45 domestic passenger flights per week. Mr. Zaid
predicts that a new airport that is under construction nearby
could handle 10 million passengers annually by 2010. EIA is
able to service international charter flights, and Mr. Zaid
said that they have been in discussions to get a direct
flight arranged between Frankfurt and Erbil. (Note: The
first of these charter flights landed this week, confirming
Mr. Zaid's statement.) The control tower at EIA is not up to
ICAO standards; one glaring problem is the lack of
unobstructed 360-degree visibility.

-----------------------
Sulaymaniyah
-----------------------

9. (U) Sulaymaniyah airport (ORSU) construction was
completed in July 2005 at a price of $40 million plus, all of
which the local government provided. ORSU currently handles
two domestic Iraqi Airways flights per week, both originating
in Amman and flying through Baghdad enroute to ORSU. There
are currently no cargo flights. According to one airport
official, the airport could handle up to 20 flights per day,
and discussions are under way to add flights from Istanbul
and Dubai (all flying through Baghdad). These flights could
begin as soon as next week according to airport officials.
ORSU would also like to service international flights
directly. In order to do so, airport officials need to
request certifications for immigration and customs from the
Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance,
respectively. We believe that customs and security
infrastructure is in good condition. DHS plans to send a TSA
team to ORSU in late October to assist with any outstanding
issues, such as CCTV installation.

10. (U) Officials stated that there are plans to build a
second terminal in the future, once international flights are
coming directly to ORSU in large numbers. The second
terminal would be larger than the first and dedicated to
international flights, while the current terminal would be
dedicated to domestic flights. In addition, according to one
of the airport officials, there are plans to build a new
highway interchange near the airport in order to facilitate
smoother traffic flow. Also, there are plans to build a
five-star hotel on the road that leads directly into the
airport compound.

11. (SBU) Comment: We suspect that one reason for the
accelerated development pace of the Kurdish airports is that
Mosul, a predominantly Sunni area, has been the site of much
fighting and counter-insurgency activity. By comparison,
Erbil and Sulaymaniyah are in predominantly conflict-free
Kurdish areas. End comment.


Khalilzad

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