Turkey gave a green light Wednesday for a humanitarian flight to Iraq despite the UN air embargo against Baghdad.
The airline Arkas was given permission to fly medical equipment to the Iraqi capital, the foreign ministry said, without giving a date for the flight.
It will be the latest in a string of recent solidarity flights to Iraq, which has been under international sanctions, including the controversial air embargo, since it invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Turkey's charge d'affaires, Salim Oughloua, was quoted by the official INA news agency as saying his government was in discussions with the UN about establishing an air link between Ankara and the Iraqi capital.
Earlier Wednesday, Tunisia sent a plane to Baghdad and the United Arab Emirates was set Thursday to become the first Gulf Arab monarchy to join the flow of flights landing in Baghdad.
Planes from Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, France and Russia have also landed at Saddam International Airport since September 27 in a wave of flights to test the air embargo.
In Ankara, the foreign ministry said Wednesday it was also likely to grant a businessman from the southeastern town of Mersin permission to charter a flight to the Iraqi capital.
Meanwhile the president of the Chamber of Commerce in the southeastern town of Gaziantep told AFP is organisation had requested permission to allow a flight transporting businessmen, doctors, nurses, artists and journalists to Baghdad in the near future.
"The objective of this civilian initiative is to open, for humanitarian reasons, a breach in the air embargo against Iraq," Mehmet Aslan said.
He added that he hoped the flight would reinforce relations between Turkey and its neighbour Iraq in the face of an "illogical" embargo.
The organisers were hoping to have a reply from the foreign ministry by the end of the week and would charter a plane before October 20, after informing the United Nations, Aslan said.
Turkey's standpoint differs from that of its Gulf War ally, the United States, which has expressed displeasure over the growing number of countries challenging the UN embargo.
The US and Britain say that authorisation from the UN sanctions committee is needed to fly to Baghdad. However France, like China and Russia, say non-commercial flights do not need to be authorised and therefore a simple notification of flight plans suffices.
Ankara has said the UN embargo and sanctions have cost it 35 billion dollars and has regularly called for them to be lifted.
Turkey's southeastern border region with Iraq has been hard hit by repercussions from the UN bans.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)