Global Policy Forum

Several Airlines Prepare to Resume Flights to Iraq

December 17, 2000

Several foreign airlines are making preparations to resume scheduled flights to Baghdad, banned by sanctions since the 1991 Gulf War. "Airlines of Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Russia have made official requests to Iraq to start regular service and Iraq has accepted," Al-Thawra newspaper, organ of the ruling Baath Party, quoted acting director-general of Iraqi Airways Ayad Abdul-Kareem as saying.

"Saddam International Airport is ready to receive planes and offer all the facilities needed," Abdul-Kareem said. He said Iraqi Airways had reopened its offices in Amman and Damascus.

UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and civilian flights to and from Iraq ceased shortly before the 1991 Gulf War. The UN sanctions committee has maintained that commercial flights to and from Iraq amount to trade and so would violate sanctions. It has however given clearance for many "humanitarian" flights to Baghdad. Iraq has always argued that commercial flights are not banned under sanctions, which it says stipulate that the United Nations should only monitor the cargo of the flights.

A growing number of countries are siding with the Iraqi view. Diplomats speak of a growing feeling at the UN Security Council that flights should be allowed and say a formula is being sought to allow more regular flights. Jordan has sent commercial flights in the past two weeks, ferrying paying passengers between Amman and Baghdad.

Asked about a contract signed before sanctions were imposed a decade ago with the European consortium Airbus to supply Iraq with five Airbus planes, Abdul-Kareem said: "The company is committed to the contract but it cannot implement it now and contacts are on with the company." An Airbus delegation held talks in Baghdad in September and renewed the European consortium's commitment to implement deals signed with the Iraqi government once UN sanctions are lifted.

Aviation sources say Iraqi Airways, grounded since the Gulf War, has 37 planes including 15 Boeings and 22 Russian-built Ilyushins. Some of the aircraft have been impounded at foreign airports for nearly a decade.

"Jordan and Tunisia do not mind handing back Iraqi planes," said Abdul-Kareem. "Work has already started to make them airworthy."

More Information on Civilian Flights to Iraq
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq


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