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Iraqi planes land in Damascus following 7-year-hiatus

AN Iraqi civilian aircraft from Baghdad has landed for the first time in seven years at Damascus International Airport despite an embargo on Syria and an unstable security situation, reports Al-Monitor, of Washington, DC, described by the New York Times as a pro-Assad newspaper

Iraqi planes land in Damascus following 7-year-hiatus
20 September 2018 - 19:00

AN Iraqi civilian aircraft from Baghdad has landed for the first time in seven years at Damascus International Airport despite an embargo on Syria and an unstable security situation, reports Al-Monitor, of Washington, DC, described by the New York Times as a pro-Assad newspaper.

Syria used this step politically and deemed it a victory for the Syrian army against insurgents, as was announced by the Syrian Minister of Transport after the landing.



In conjunction with growing air traffic, the director of Damascus International Airport, Nidhal Mohammed, revealed September 12 that the number of arrivals to the airport increased by 20 per cent over the same period last year, and the proportion of air freight also increased 15 per cent from last year.



Previously, Iraqi Airways had refrained from operating direct flights to Damascus, except for transit flights. Meanwhile, Syrian companies were flying Iraqis to Damascus, especially visitors to religious sites in Syria.



Such companies include Cham Wings Airlines, which began operating flights to and from Syria December 1, as the Syrian Ministry of Tourism announced an increase in the revenues generated from religious tourism.



FlyDamas Airline received a licence from the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority to become a Syrian air operator with Iraq in 2015, but the license was suspended last January.



Laith Abdel Karim al-Rabii, director of media relations for Iraqi Airways, told Al-Monitor, 'With the first Iraqi flight to Damascus after years of suspension, the Iraqi Airways office in Syria is getting ready to expand its operations and receive passengers wishing to visit Iraq.'



'Iraqi Airways, which made more than US$1 million in profit from air cargo in June and July, will have its revenues increase with the resumption of flights to Syria - a country that has extensive commercial and economic relations with Iraq. Add to this the huge numbers of Iraqis wishing to visit religious sites in Syria,' said Mr al-Rabii.



'Enhancing air transport between the two countries coincides with the security stability that is rolling out between the two countries. This step will have a positive economic impact on both countries, especially since many Iraqi markets still need Syrian goods. Moreover, religious tourism in Syria mainly depends on Iraqi visitors. Should Iraqi flights resume to Syria, then this will spare Iraqis a lot of time and money,' he said.



Ghazwan Ramadan, the director of Fly Baghdad ground operations, said the company 'decided to operate regular flights between Damascus and each of the Baghdad and Najaf airports at a rate of four flights per week.'



'While this development is of interest to Iraqis and provides them with a quick and safe means of transport to Syria, Syrian officials consider this a political victory because it breaks the embargo that has been imposed on the Damascus International Airport since the start of the war in Syria. Add to this the sanctions imposed by Washington and European countries on Syria's flag carrier, Syrian Arab Airlines, and Syrian airports,' said the report.



Iraqi Ambassador to Syria Saad Mohammad Reza announced July 9 that 'Baghdad and Damascus are in the process of opening up the crossings between the two countries, especially al-Qaim-Abu Kamal crossing, in a bid to revive the economic and trade movement.'



After Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS) insurgents invaded Mosul and other Iraqi cities in June 2014, the number of flights over Iraqi airspace decreased due to security concerns.



But the liberation of Iraqi territories from IS in 2017 resulted in the reopening of Iraq's airspace. Now, some 150 flights are landing in Iraq on a daily basis compared to between 20 and 25 aircraft that were operated by a limited number of regional airlines in the past.



Spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Transport Salem Mousa told Al-Monitor, 'The security that has been established in the country since IS has prompted the ministry to enhance air transport. About 750 flights have used Iraqi airspace, and this increases Iraq's financial revenues through transit charges.'

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