Royal Jordanian, Jordan's national airline, is preparing to launch regular flights to Iraq, challenging a decade-long international ban, Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah Khatib says.
"Royal Jordanian, which has already launched a number of (charter) flights to Baghdad, is on its way to taking measures to ensure the regularity of civilian flights to Iraq," the official Petra news agency quoted Khatib as saying from Washington where he was accompanying Jordan's King Abdullah II on a US tour.
While Jordan continues to respect the economic sanctions on Baghdad, Khatib said: "We believe that the air embargo on Iraq should not be pursued. Since the beginning, we have considered this embargo as not covered by the Security Council resolutions."
Khatib cited the outcome of the March 27-28 Amman summit of Arab leaders who he said issued a "unanimous call for the lifting of sanctions" as a support for an end to the ban on commercial flights.
Baghdad argues that the ban on flights to Iraq as well as the US and British enforced no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq are not covered in the Security Council resolutions on sanctions.
A number of one-off flights allegedly for humanitarian purposes have been made in recent months to test the sanctions, and Royal Jordanian launched its first charter flight to Baghdad on November 30 after a 10-year pause.
Since the maiden voyage, Jordan has scheduled twice weekly flights on Royal Jordanian to Iraq, every Monday and Thursday. But each follows UN procedure and needs UN approval 48 hours before departure.
In March, an Iraqi transportation official had called anonymously for Jordan to halt the service because he said it did not contribute to the breaking of the embargo on commercial flights.
Jordan denied receiving any such request at the time, though the number of flights to Baghdad has declined in recent weeks.
King Abdullah called for a lifting of sanctions on Iraq and for a quick settlement of differences between Iraq and Kuwait in an interview published Wednesday, Aril 10, in the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat .
During his US tour the Jordanians agreed to discuss Washington's plans to shift the emphasis of economic sanctions on Iraq to a restriction on military items. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)