BAGHDAD (Reuters) - After a freeze that lasted more than two decades, Iraq’s state airline on Wednesday launched its first flight to Kuwait since former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invaded the neighbouring nation 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 oil-producing neighbours, 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 advisor 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 U.S.-led coalition intervened to force Iraq out.
Diplomatic ties between the Middle East neighbours 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 $500 million.
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 560 km (346 miles) apart. Kuwait’s state-run carrier has yet to restart flights to Iraq.
Reporting by Aseel Kami; Editing by Pravin Char