BAGHDAD, (AFP) — Iraq has approved a request from Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways to operate services to Baghdad and Najaf, more than 20 years after direct flights between the neighbours were halted, officials said Thursday.
“We agreed yesterday to the request of the Kuwaiti Jazeera Airways company to (begin) flights from Kuwait to Iraq,” said Nasser Hussein Bandar, the head of Iraq’s civil aviation authority.
Bandar said Jazeera Airways, which was founded in 2004, had requested four flights a week to Baghdad and four more to the central Iraq city Najaf.
Karim al-Nuri, an adviser to Iraq’s transport minister, confirmed that a deal was approved.
“This is a step on the path to resolve all the suspended files between Iraq and Kuwait,” including unresolved disputes over borders, said Nuri.
Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, after which flights between the Iraq and its small neighbour to the south were suspended.
During a visit by Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki in mid-March, Kuwait agreed to a $500 million deal with Baghdad aimed at ending a decades-long debt dispute that saw an Iraqi Airways flight impounded in London.
According to Kuwait Airways, Iraq’s flag carrier owes it $1.2 billion as a result of the 1990 invasion. Kuwait says 10 of its planes as well as aircraft parts were plundered after its airport was seized during the invasion.
The dispute saw British authorities seize the passport of Iraqi Airways chief executive Kifah Hassan Jabbar and impound the plane which he flew to London in April 2010.
The incident marred Iraqi Airways’ first commercial flight from Baghdad to London in 20 years.