The national carrier of Iraq, Iraqi Airways, has announced that it will resume commercial flights to the Syrian capital for the first time since foreign-backed militancy broke out in the neighboring country eight years ago.
Layth al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the airline, said on Thursday that Iraqi Airways will operate a weekly service from Baghdad to Damascus as of Saturday.
The development comes nearly a month after the Syrian government agreed to a request by the Qatari civil aviation authority to allow planes of Qatar Airways to fly over Syria.
“Transport Minister Ali Hammoud has agreed to allow Qatar Airways to cross Syrian airspace, based on a request from the Qatari civil aviation authority,” the Syrian Ministry of Transport said in a statement released late on April 22.
Doha severed ties with Damascus in the wake of the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, and supported the so-called armed opposition groups in the conflict-plagued Arab country.
Qatar Airways kept its planes at bay and took longer routes to circumvent the war zone, a policy that was also adopted by most other international airlines.
“The agreement came on the principle of reciprocity, as Syrian Air crosses Qatari airspace and never stopped flying to Doha throughout the war,” the statement further said, adding that the use of Syrian airspace would see “increased revenues in hard currency for the benefit of the Syrian state.”
On December 27, 2018, a flight from Damascus landed in Tunisia’s Monastir Habib Bourguiba International Airport, marking the first direct flight between the two countries since the outbreak of the Syria crisis.
Some 150 Syrian tourists were met at the airport by supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who jubilated and waved the Tunisian and Syrian national flags.
Private Syrian airline Cham Wings Airlines announced on July 16, 2016, that it had started running flights between Damascus and the southern Iraqi port city of Basra.
The company’s commercial director Nizar Suleiman told Syria’s official news agency SANA in a statement at the time that Cham Wings Airlines would run one flight daily to Basra International Airport, adding that the number of flights could increase according to demand.