Saudi flight arrives in Iraq, first time in 27 years

A Saudi Arabian commercial airplane arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday for the first time in 27 years, the Iraqi transport ministry said.

There have been no flights between the neighbouring countries since former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are both wooing Baghdad now in an effort to halt the growing regional influence of arch-foe Iran.

“Baghdad International Airport today welcomed the first Saudi plane after a 27-year break,” said a ministry statement cited by local media. “This plane belongs to the Saudi company Flynas.”

Tickets for the maiden flight were advertised for as low as $7 (six euros) excluding taxes as flynas CEO Bandar al-Muhanna said the move to reopen the route would help “link the two sisterly countries”.

Flights between Iraq and Saudi Arabia were suspended some 27 years ago in August 1990 after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighbouring Kuwait. After years of tense relations, ties between  Saudi Arabia and  Iraq have begun looking up in recent months.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir headed to Baghdad in February for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the first visit of its kind since 2003.

Abadi then visited Riyadh in June, followed the next month by influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who led a militia that fought against the US occupation of Iraq.

Private carrier flynas, in which Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal holds a 34-per cent stake, plans to expand its routes from Saudi airports to major cities across Iraq.

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