Iraq resumes flights to Kuwait after 22-year halt

Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi Airways flight landed in Kuwait on Wednesday for the first time since Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of the tiny emirate as the neighboring states try to repair more than two decades of strained relations.

Government ministers from both countries were on hand for the ceremonial landing at the international airport in Kuwait City shortly before noon.

Iraq's Transportation Ministry spokesman, Karim al-Nouri, said the flight will open "important horizons for cooperation based on brotherhood" with Kuwait. Passenger demand will determine the number of flights in the future, he said.

In January, Kuwait's parliament approved a deal under which Baghdad will pay $500 million in compensation to Kuwait's national carrier for damages caused during the Iraqi occupation. The accord seeks to end a long-running dispute over reparations for Kuwait Airways.

The disagreement had centered on Kuwait's accusations that Saddam's regime stole 10 airplanes and millions of dollars' worth of equipment and spare parts during the invasion. Kuwait earlier wanted $1.2 billion in reparations, which Iraq's postwar leaders resisted.

The chairman and managing director of Kuwait Airways Corp., Sami al-Nisf, said all outstanding issues between the Kuwaiti and Iraqi carriers have been completely and fully resolved, Kuwait's state news agency reported. He suggested that there could be interest in Kuwait resuming flights to Baghdad, but an aircraft shortage hinders those plans for now.

Although the airline dispute appears settled, there are other disputes over war reparations between the two nations.

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