x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Iraq's first flight to Kuwait since 1990 takes to skies

Diplomatic ties between the countries were bolstered last year after they came to a settlement over Gulf War-era debts.

BAGHDAD // After a freeze that lasted more than two decades, Iraq's state airline yesterday launched its first flight to Kuwait since former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's invaded the country in 1990.

Iraq's foreign and transport ministers travelled on the symbolic Iraqi Airways flight, hailed by officials as a sign of improving relations between the countries, and they were greeted by Kuwaiti officials upon landing.

The Iraqi transport ministry said there would now be regular flights between the countries.

"Today was the first flight between Iraq and Kuwait after a stoppage that lasted more than 22 years," the ministry's media adviser Karim Al Nuri said.

"This visit shows that Iraq has started to be open, especially with the state of Kuwait ... I believe that relations are heading in a positive direction."

The invasion of Kuwait led to the first Gulf War in which a US-led coalition intervened to force Iraq out.

Diplomatic ties between the countries were bolstered last year after they came to a settlement over Gulf War-era debts, and by a series of bilateral visits involving Kuwait's ruler and Iraq's prime minister.

In December, Kuwait's state-run airline dropped legal cases against Iraqi Airways in return for compensation of US$500 million (Dh1.8 billion).

Although one small private carrier offers direct flights between the two countries, major airlines route through cities such as Dubai even though the nations' capitals lie just 560km apart. Kuwait's state-run carrier has yet to restart flights to Iraq.