Saudi plane lands in Baghdad after 27-year hiatus

A Saudi woman speaks on the phone in Riyadh Saudi Arabia

A Saudi woman speaks on the phone in Riyadh Saudi Arabia

Saudi budget carrier flynas on Wednesday launched the first direct flight between the kingdom and Iraq since the Gulf War 27 years ago.

It marks another move by Saudi Arabia to improve ties with its neighbour in an attempt to blunt rival Iran's vast influence there.

Transport Minister Kazem Fangan al-Hamami and Saudi Arabia's acting ambassador to Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Shammari, were both present at the airport to welcome the plane, according to a ministry statement.

National flag carrier Saudia, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is also scheduled to operate a flight to Baghdad from Thursday. However, over the years some countries resumed flights with Turkey making the step in 2008 and the Europen Union in 2010.

Abadi then visited Riyadh in June, followed the next month by influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who led a militia that fought against the USA occupation of Iraq.

The Sunni-led kingdom, which had opposed the US -led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has always been anxious about Iran's footprint in Shiite-majority Iraq and its network of allied militias there.

All flights between Saudi Arabia and Iraq have remained frozen since the latter's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The kingdom is also looking to Iraq as a potential trading partner and as a major investment opportunity amid reconstruction efforts in cities like Mosul, which were devastated by the war against the Islamic State group.

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