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Return of Iraq-Syria flights postponed: Damascus


DAMASCUS: Damascus said it had been informed Iraqi flights to Syria would not resume as planned Saturday after more than seven years, over what it said were "administrative" reasons.

Iraq's national carrier, Iraqi Airways, said Thursday it would resume flights to Damascus for the first time since the Syrian civil war started in 2011.

But the Syrian transport ministry on Saturday said it had been informed of the "decision to postpone the trip of two Iraqi Airways planes today... until further notice."

The flights were postponed to allow for "the completion of some administrative and organisational steps between the company and the Syrian civil aviation" authority, it said in a statement on Facebook.

It posted a photo of an urgent letter sent from the Iraqi embassy in Damascus the same day, informing the foreign ministry both flights had been deferred.

The news comes as Iraq faces rising tensions between the United States and its neighbour Iran, and after the Pentagon deployed a carrier group accompanied by B-52 bombers to the Gulf.

The last flight from Baghdad to Damascus took place in December 2011, according to Iraqi Airways spokesman Layth al-Rubaie.

Most airlines stopped flying to and over Syria after the conflict broke out, with many taking longer routes to circumvent the war zone.

But the conflict has wound down in recent years, after major regime advances against rebels and jihadists with Russian military backing since 2015.

Last month, the Syrian government said it had agreed to allow regional aviation giant Qatar Airways to resume flights over the country.

Syria's war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions inside Syria and abroad since starting in March 2011 with a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations.