12-year ban ends; direct flights resume for Syria haj pilgrims

An aircraft carrying 270 travellers left Damascus for Jeddah, with more expected in the coming days


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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Tue 28 May 2024, 1:16 PM

Direct flights from Syria to Saudi Arabia for pilgrims taking part in the annual haj resumed on Tuesday, ending 12 years of isolation since the civil war began, according to a Syrian official.

The move follows a slow rapprochement between the two governments that saw diplomatic relations restored last year.

A flight carrying 270 Syrian pilgrims left Damascus for Jeddah with more flights expected in the coming days, transport ministry official Suleiman Khalil said.

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It was a first after "all (passenger) flights between the two countries were halted in 2012," Khalil said.

"This decision only applies to the hajj period," he said. "We are studying the reopening of a direct air route."

In May 2023, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attended his first Arab summit in 13 years in Saudi Arabia, mending ties with Riyadh and allowing the country's return to the Arab fold.

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

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