Gulf Papers Urge Resumption of Air Links with Iraq
Gulf newspapers urged Arab countries Sunday to resume air links with Iraq, following the arrival in Baghdad of two delegations from France and Russia by plane despite strong criticism from the United States.
"The air embargo has fallen completely by the wayside, subject to interpretations according to one's interests," the Qatari paper Al-Watan said.
"Why are Arab countries standing there with arms folded instead of taking a positive initiative ... while the way is open before them?" asked the paper, dubbing the air embargo "fictitious".
Iraq has been under a wide range of international sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, but the permanent members of the UN Security Council disagree over the extent to which air traffic is affected, with France, Russia and China arguing that non-commercial passenger flights to Baghdad are not covered.
"A Qatari plane, with Qatari doctors and personalities, should visit Baghdad, as a sign of solidarity with the Iraqi people," the Doha-based Al-Sharq said.
"New strategies for the region lie behind the French and Russian flights to Iraq," it said, and urged Arab countries "to take the initiative on Iraq so as not to lose ground to the West, which imposed sanctions only to break them in the search for new investments in the region."
The Emirati daily Al-Bayan, which said the French flight had given the "green light to peace-loving countries to contribute to the lifting of the embargo", urged Arab countries to undertake similar initiatives "to break the embargo and come to the aid of the victims of the sanctions."
It also called on Baghdad to benefit from the moves by Paris and Moscow by "putting an end to threats (against its neighbors) and its media campaigns against Washington as well as applying international resolutions."
Dubai's Khaleej Times said the arrival of the two planes in Baghdad "points to a concerted bid by Iraq's friends to hasten the demise of the 10-year-old UN embargo," adding the countries clearly had an eye on lucrative commercial contracts with Iraq.
"Using humanitarian assistance as a cover, Moscow and Paris have used the flights to signal their impatience with the Security Council, which refuses to lift the sanctions, as well as to stake a claim to the long-awaited commercial windfall."
But Saudi Arabia's Al-Bilad urged that the embargo be upheld as long as Baghdad kept mum on "Kuwaiti demands on prisoners-of-war and guarantees of border security" with Iraq.
"Do those who break the embargo realize they are deliberately ridiculing the rights and interests of others?" the paper asked.
A Russian flight arrived in Baghdad on Saturday, a day after a French plane landed in the Iraqi capital, in defiance of the US hard line on decade-old UN sanctions.
With the air embargo on Baghdad falling apart, another 120-strong delegation of European lawmakers and business people is expected to fly to Iraq from Paris on September 29 - DUBAI (AFP)
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