State-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines will launch its first flight to Baghdad in 27 years, state media said, amid a thaw in ties between the Arab neighbours. The airline, also known as Saudia, will depart from the Red Sea city of Jeddah barely two weeks after Saudi budget carrier flynas made the first commercial flight from Riyadh to Baghdad since 1990. “Saudi Arabian Airlines will inaugurate regular flights between the kingdom and Iraq after an interruption of 27 years,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
“The resumption of flights is in line with growing ties between the two brotherly countries.” Flights between Iraq and Saudi Arabia were suspended in August 1990 after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighbouring Kuwait. After years of tense relations, ties between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iraq have begun looking up in recent months. Earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Saudi King Salman held the first meeting of the joint Saudi-Iraqi coordination council, which is aimed at upgrading strategic ties.
Iraq is seeking economic benefits from closer ties with Riyadh as both countries suffer from a protracted oil slump. Saudi Arabia is also seeking to counter Iranian influence in Iraq. Private carrier flynas, in which Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal holds a 34-per cent stake, also plans to expand its routes from Saudi airports to major cities across Iraq.