A scheduled Kuwait Airways flight landed in Iraq late on Wednesday for the first time since the 1990 Iraqi invasion, in the latest sign of improved ties between the neighbours.
Kuwait’s national airline flew 100 passengers to Najaf, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, the director of Najaf’s airport told state news agency KUNA, adding that most were visiting Shiite Muslim holy sites in the city.
KUNA said Kuwait Airways planned to fly twice a week to Najaf, which is more secure than the capital Baghdad, where bombings are an almost daily occurrence.
Diplomatic relations between Kuwait and Iraq improved last year after a settlement over debts from the era of the 1991 Gulf War, in which a US-led coalition forced Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.
Ties have also been bolstered by a series of bilateral visits involving Kuwait’s ruler and Iraq’s prime minister.
Iraq’s state airline resumed flights between Baghdad and Kuwait in February for the first time since the invasion. But most major carriers that ply the route still do so through other cities such as Dubai, even though the Iraqi and Kuwaiti capitals lie just 560 kilometres apart.
In December, Kuwait Airways dropped legal cases against Iraqi Airways in return for compensation of $500 million.
The legal row was part of a broader dispute over billions of dollars in reparations dating back to the invasion, when the forces of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain seized aircraft and parts.