Iraqi Airways to resume flights to Syria after 8-year break

Iraqi Airways said that it will resume it first flights to Syria since 2011on Saturday. (File/AFP) 
Updated 16 May 2019
0

Iraqi Airways to resume flights to Syria after 8-year break

  • Most airlines stopped flying over Syria after the conflict broke out, with many taking longer routes to circumvent the war zone
  • Jordanian officials have also visited Damascus to discuss plans to reopen Syrian airspace to its Royal Jordanian's commercial flights

BAGHDAD: Iraq's national carrier is to resume flights to the capital of neighbouring Syria for the first time since the war there erupted in 2011, a spokesman said Thursday.
Iraqi Airways will operate a weekly service from Baghdad to Damascus starting Saturday, spokesman Layth Al-Rubaie told AFP.
Rubaie said the resumption of flights between the two neighbours was "important", citing bilateral trade, tourism and "the size of the Iraqi community living in Syria".
The Syrian transport ministry welcomed the decision in a statement on its official Facebook page.
Rubaie said the last flight from Baghdad to Damascus took place in December 2011, before the service was suspended due to the conflict that erupted in Syria that year.
Most airlines stopped flying over Syria after the conflict broke out, with many taking longer routes to circumvent the war zone.
But the conflict has wound down in recent years, after major regime advances against rebels and extremists with Russian military backing since 2015.
Damascus has been largely spared the violence.
In April, the Syrian government said it had agreed to allow Qatar Airways to resume flights over the country.
"The agreement came on the principle of reciprocity, as SyrianAir crosses Qatari airspace and never stopped flying to Doha throughout the war," the Syrian transport ministry said at the time.
The use of Syrian airspace would see "increased revenues in hard currency for the benefit of the Syrian state", it added.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in November 2011 as the death toll escalated and several regional powers bet on President Bashar Al-Assad's demise.
But the regime, backed by allies Russia and Iran, has since re-conquered much of the territory it had lost to rebels and extremists, and now controls some two-thirds of the country.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have reopened their missions in Damascus.
Jordan reopened a key land crossing with its Syrian neighbour in October last year after a three-year hiatus.
Analysts said the move would help Syria inch its way back into trade with the wider region as it looks to boost its war-ravaged economy.
The Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations that sparked a brutal regime crackdown.
The spiralling violence drew in regional powers and has killed more than 370,000 people, displacing millions.


Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

Updated 20 September 2019

Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

  • Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies
  • Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies

ALGIERS: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Algerian capital on Friday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country's army chief.
Demonstrators gathered near the capital's main post office square, the epicentre of Algeria's protest movement that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April, this time calling for the ouster of General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
"The people want the fall of Gaid Salah," the strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria, they chanted. "Take us all to prison, the people will not stop."
Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city centre and along its main avenues.
Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies.
The tougher line on protests came just days after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika's departure.
The army chief has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president's loyalists -- including Gaid Salah himself -- before any vote.
In the runup to the latest rally, as on previous Fridays, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.
Police stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.
As a police helicopter scoured the skies, security forces also stopped cars headed towards the city centre from its southwest entrance, where a dozen anti-riot police vans were stationed.
Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, condemned the heightened security measures as "illegal".
Demonstrations have officially been banned in Algiers since 2001 but the prohibition had been ignored since rallies started on February 22 against the ailing Bouteflika's bid for a fifth presidential term.