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Syria’s National Airline Resumes Saudi Flights After 12 Years

Syria’s national airline resumed regular services to Saudi Arabia after a 12-year suspension as the first flight arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The move, announced by Syrian Airlines and confirmed to AFP by Syria’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, continues a slow rapprochement between the two governments who restored diplomatic relations last year.

Ambassador Ayman Soussan said a Syrian Airlines plane carrying 170 passengers touched down in the Saudi capital, marking the resumption of a regular route.

He said the two countries have agreed to “operate one round-trip flight per week between Riyadh and Damascus” after the long pause prompted by Syria’s civil war.

Syrian transport ministry official Suleiman Khalil said the direct route could be expanded to cover airports in the Saudi cities of Jeddah and Dammam, depending on demand.

Passenger flights between the two countries were halted in 2012 when Riyadh severed ties with Damascus over President Bashar Al Assad’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters at the start of the country’s civil war.

Services between Syria and Saudi Arabia resumed in May on a temporary basis for pilgrims taking part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

While Saudi Arabia had championed restoring ties with Assad, the rapprochement has been sluggish.

Saudi Arabia only named a new ambassador to Damascus in May, more than a year after the two countries re-established relations.

In May 2023, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad attended his first Arab summit in 13 years in Saudi Arabia, mending ties with Riyadh and marking the country’s return to the regional fold.

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Gulf News

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