Iran has agreed to allow regular Tehran-Damascus flights to pass through Iraq's airspace instead of Turkey's, Iranian Transportation Minister Mahmud Hojjati said Monday.
"Since the route over Turkey is not suitable for these flights, and wanting to develop relations with Iraq, particularly in transportation, Iran believes these flights should go over Iraq," Hojjati said after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Ahmed Morteza.
"Baghdad hopes that Tehran-Damascus flights will from now on pass over Iraq," Morteza said, as cited by Iran's official IRNA news agency.
The Tehran-Damascus route is primarily geared toward Muslim pilgrims. All international airlines have avoided flying over Iraq since August 1990, when an air embargo was imposed on the country after Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait.
In answer to a request by Morteza for Iran to open its airspace to Russian flights to Iraq, Hojjati said Tehran "has promised that these planes will be authorized, in so far as possible, to fly over Iran after the necessary studies have been carried out."
The Russian carrier Aeroflot said in Moscow Monday it had signed an agreement with an Iraqi Airways delegation that will allow the resumption at some point of regular flights to Baghdad.
Morteza said the Russian flights were to resume in two weeks.
Separately, Morteza also said Iraq wanted to send technicians to Iran to examine Iraqi planes that have been kept in its eastern neighbor since just before the 1991 Gulf war. Baghdad says there are 148 planes, while Iran says there are only 22.
Iraq wants to make sure the planes "are not deteriorating," Morteza said.
Hojjati responded that the planes were not the responsiblity of the transport ministry and said "the two countries' authorities must reach an agreement on the subject."
Iran has previously said it would return the planes to Iraq but only if requested to do so by the United Nations. – (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )