Iraqi Airways resumed flights to Syria on Monday, February 12, launching a regular service abroad for the first time since an international air embargo was imposed in 1990, Transport Minister Ahmad Murtada said.
He said the airline would fly twice a week on the Baghdad-Damascus-Baghdad route, after a break of 19 years in regular flights between the two Arab neighbors, which are ruled by rival wings of the Baath party.
Airport officials said Commerce Minister Mohammad Mahdi Al-Saleh was on the first flight on Monday along with six Arab passengers on board the Boeing 747. The other weekly flight is set for Thursdays.
Iraqi Airways reopened its Damascus office, which had been closed since 1982, on November 25. It was the same day as Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz arrived in Damascus by plane to become the first Iraqi official to fly out of Baghdad since the UN sanctions were imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Dozens of Arab and European flights have arrived in Baghdad since August when Baghdad's international airport was reopened, in a challenge against the embargo. Iraqi Airways launched domestic flights on November 5.
Syria and Iraq, which cut off diplomatic relations in 1980 when Damascus sided with Tehran in a war against Baghdad but whose ties have thawed since 1997, signed a free trade agreement on January 31. — (AFP, Baghdad)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )